Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World by A.J. Mendez Brooks, Aimee Garcia and Martin Coccolo
IDW, pb, £9.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
A winter’s night has settled permanently over an isolated northern town. Food is running short and tempers shorter. To save the town, a mismatched group of warriors and mages must traverse the cursed landscape and head deep underground to find an ancient magic that will provide the town with the food it needs to survive and maybe a way to lift the curse.
Based on the successful tabletop game Dungeons and Dragons, At the Spine of the World follows Runa as she travels across Icewind Dale after discovering Amos in the wreckage of an overturned wagon, all other travellers dead and the contents are eaten by a monster. When Amos explains he’s searching for a way to end the night and the hunger that has gripped the land, Runa takes him to Belvyre, a magician also searching for a solution. They are joined by Patience, Belvyre’s bodyguard, and Saarvin, each one bringing a different skillset, which will be useful at some point on their journey. Running along their journey are glimpses of an unknown antagonist hunting for primordial shards and controlling a group of miners who are slowly losing their humanity. The story is filled with little jokes and arguments as each character has their own motivations, which sometimes puts them at odds.
While it was fast-paced and action-packed, I did have some issues with At the Spine of the World. For me, it felt too simplistic, aimed more at a younger audience; certainly, there’s nothing in it that would make me hesitate to give it to one of my children. This, however, is a minor problem and not one that should stop anyone from reading it. Just manage your expectations that this is not going to be overly complicated.
My second issue is in the artwork. It is glorious and detailed. Effective colour use builds the scene’s atmosphere, and the characters expressions are perfect, making the exchanges between Amos, Belvyre and Patience all the more amusing. In that respect, I have only good things to say. But as I felt the story was simplistic, there are times when it feels like panels are missing. An example of this occurs at the beginning. Amos is injured and unable to walk, so Runa carries him, which is funny, to Belvyre for healing. We don’t see this healing. In one panel, Amos is lying down on a table, and in the next, he’s up and walking.
While I may have wanted more from Dungeons and Dragons: At the Spine of the World, it was an engaging, easy read that fans of the tabletop game will love. The ending also contains enough unanswered questions and mysteries that I will be looking out for the next issues in the series.