One of the things that makes Dungeons and Dragons fiction work so well is a that odd mix of the past with modern ideas. The fifth edition of the game blends modern game design with Tolkien-inspired worlds and Vancian magic to create something unique. Similarly, Jim Zub's Dungeons & Dragons: Infernal Tides comic book pulls the trick by introducing beloved heroes into the new version of The Forgotten Realms.
Or to put it another way, this book puts ranger Minsc and his hamster, Boo into a version of the D&D adventure, Descent in Avernus. Minsc and his hamster companion have become the poster children for D&D, ever since their humble origins as NPCs in the Baldur’s Gate video game. Though the fan favourite is the main character, he’s the sort of hero that reacts to the world around him. Minsc is simply too chaotic (and kind hearted) to drive the story. Zub has used this to maximum effect; Infernal Tides is a solid exercise in world building and uses an ensemble cast very well.
Everything bounces off Minsc; arrows, rocks, the plot and the dialogue from the rest of cast. The team is mostly a stereotypical D&D party, right down to their equipment and character design.
The plot revolves around a bunch of adventurers facing off against the forces of Hell. The story moves at quite a speed; one moment we are in the thriving metropolis that is Baldur’s Gate, the next we are in the library fortress known as Candlekeep , then off to other notable Forgotten Realm’s locations until we end up in Hell itself (as the title of the book implies). Minsc companions feel very much like a D&D adventuring party, to the point where gamers can easily identify what spells and special abilities they’re using. (You can almost hear the dice rattle when the sorcerer uses their wild magic.)
Max Dunbar’s artwork is a great match for the project; it’s the right mix of high fantasy and utter chaos. Dunbar has a style that fills the page with lots of detail, making it look both precise and messy at the same time. He also seems to have a lot of fun drawing Minsc’s various crazy expressions. Colouring and lettering is tight, and this is a slickly produced book that’s likely to delight D&D fans and read as typical swords and sorcery romp to the uninitiated. Short, fun and definitely worth adding to the shelf of anyone who likes enjoyable fantasy romps.