Hello dear readers!
I’m doing something new with this post: reviewing comics that have a connection to a published tabletop roleplaying game.
I think it’s likely that many of us have read some “game fiction” at some point in our time in the hobby. My start was the Dragonlance Chronicles 2: Dragons of Winter Night. Though not even fully aware of every rule of the game, I dove into the book (despite it being the middle of the trilogy) and immediately scrabbled to find the others. From there I travelled to the Forgotten Realms and the Avatar Trilogy, then Spelljammer and Ravenloft. Basically a lot of TSR D&D novels.
They were fun and full of familiar elements: a shared world, adventure, romance, and intrigue. Sometimes it was entertaining to see how they connected to tie-in modules and wonder how many of these stories had their roots in an actual game session. During this time I also discovered there were comics set in these universes, but was only able to get my hands on a few (the Dragonlance comics set on Taladas).
I drifted away from them after a while as my library was pared down while moving. However, as the digital age is upon us, it’s been easy to re-find them in ebook form nowadays. In this post I’m going to talk about a couple of comics with rpg connections.
Let’s begin with Vampire: The Masquerade: Winter’s Teeth Volume 1. from Vault Comics.
Written by Tim Seeley and illustrated by Devmalya Pramanik, Winter’s Teeth is a story told in conjunction with The Anarch’s Tales, written by Tini Howard and Blake Howard, and illustrated by Nathan Gooden (also in this volume, just to be clear).
The two stories intertwine and coincide at various moments, initially hinting at their connections until everything is made explicit.
Set in the universe of the 5th edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, Winter’s Teeth takes place in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis – St. Paul and follows the Brujah vampire Cecily Bain. A former Anarch, Cecily now works for Prince Samantha Merrain and the Council of the Twin Cities as an enforcer, though eschewing any title of Sheriff or Scourge. Crochety and sullen, her (un)life is turned around when the Caitiff Alejandra crosses her path, changing up her existence as she decides to take the orphan under her wing and claim her as Childe.
This plotline provides a perfect setup to introduce the reader to the world of Vampire, without forcing any exposition between characters who already know their universe and are required to inform the reader of the rules and society “As you well know Bertrand, we Kindred must drink blood to survive…” (for example). There’s a tiny bit of that sort of exposition but it only occurs once and in the first couple of pages, so it’s not ultimately intrusive at all.
While Cecily and Alejandra navigate the intricacies of Kindred politics, The Anarch Tales follows the Anarch Coterie of Priscilla (Toreador), King Rat (Nosferatu), Mitch (Gangrel), and his Childe and wife Colleen (Thin-blood). On their journey from Duluth to the Twin Cities we learn their histories, both personal and with each other, as they tackle hunters and their own internal dysfunction. Ultimately their tale intertwined with Cecily and Alejandra’s in a very interesting way.
Both stories do an excellent job of introducing a new reader to the world and of showing the harsh unlife of the Kindred. None of the main characters have surrendered their humanity and are forced into a variety of situations that push their limits and test their resolve. The plots and politics of the storyline are very entertaining and it’s a really great read, with clear characters and good pacing. Most importantly, I would hand this to a newcomer to give them a taste of what Vampire is about.
The art is also quite good in both stories. It’s moody and has a neo-gothic industrial feel in many places, while still very coherent and decipherable (as in it doesn’t get so stylized you can’t figure out what’s going on). Places and characters are recognizable and it’s very easy to follow.
As a plus, the book concludes with some game content: a Loresheet for each of the Twin Cities and for two of the antagonist groups that appear in the story, new powers, and character sheets for Cecily, Colleen, and the court of Prince Samantha.
Next is the Trinity Continuum: Aberrant comic You Are Not Alone, which originally appeared in small parts prior to the Kickstarter.
I’m a huge fan of the Trinity games and was just getting back into superhero comics when the first edition of Aberrant was released. While I never got the chance to play it, it sang to my late 90’s superhero preferences: Stormwatch and The Authority, Rising Stars, Supreme Power, The Dark Knight Returns, Planetary… all the titles that “took it seriously”. The tagline of “What Would You Do With the Powers of a God?” really hooked me. I aim to get some play in of the new version of Aberrant and You Are Not Alone is a great introduction.
It’s a single-issue book, so I won’t get too deep into the story, but it’s an interview between an online blogger of small repute and the Nova (in-setting name for superbeings), Antaeus. Antaeus has control over the Earth and plant life, appearing as a humanoid cluster of vines and such. The two discuss the implications of the presence of Novas and their purpose, ending in a revelation of great import.
It’s a good introduction to the setting and is written quite well – it reminded me of the aforementioned titles in spirit, lacking the ultraviolence and grim nature, of course. If I were to equate it to anything since it would fit in perfectly with Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers from a number of years ago. Definitely worth picking up if you’re an Aberrant fan.
Where I see tie-in fiction as tricky really does come down to the question of exposition: how much is the reader told, rather than shown. While that’s important for any fictional world it’s a harder hurdle to jump when the source material is literally setting information. Both of these titles do a very good job of it though, allowing them to be organic and entertaining stories in their own right, as well as being informative about their respective properties. I’d recommend both to fans of their respective genres and games!
You can purchase a copy of each from the below affiliate links at DriveThruComics!
Vampire: The Masquerade – Winter’s Teeth Vol 1
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