Here There Be Gerblins (The Adventure Zone #1) by the McElroy Family & Carey Pietsch (2018)

Rating: ★★★★
Genre: High Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Comedy
Categories: Gay, Wizards, Swords & Sorcery
Content Warnings: N/A
Buy it at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Description: Based on the hit podcast “The Adventure Zone”, join the older two McElroy brothers and father as they play D&D characters in a world DM’d by the sweet babiest brother, Griffin. Or rather, join the brave/foolhardy human fighter Magnus Burnsides, the disaffected/cowardly elf wizard Taako, and the jocular/scatterbrained dwarf cleric Merle Highchurch as they take a simple job that soon gets complicated by redacted knowledge and terrible ancient artifacts.

Impression: If you’ve followed me on twitter for a while, it’s probably no surprise to hear that I love the The Adventure Zone podcast and have listened to it a few times through. It’s funny, it’s queer in a lot of ways, it’s kind, and it’s honestly extremely moving.

The Here There Be Gerblins graphic novel is an adaptation of the first campaign arc by the same name—which is also probably the weakest arc of the podcast, since the McElroys didn’t actually plan to do a multi-year-long campaign so much as they had the idea to do a D&D special episode of their other major podcast, “My Brother, My Brother, and Me”. Clint McElroy & Carey Pietsch do an excellent job adapting and updating this arc to flow better and move faster while keeping the good humor and general tone of the podcast—it’s funny, with the witty batter flowing endlessly, but the climax gives us the first hint of the serious stakes and emotional impact this story will come to be known for in later arcs.

As an adaptation, the later parts of the graphic novel were more direct than the early parts—I presume that Wizards of the Coast (the company that owns D&D) probably didn’t want them to publish a direct adaptation of the Starter Set Adventure that Griffin used as his initial base (Running it is likely fine, but publishing the exact details with the names as given less so), so at the point when Griffin diverged to tell his own story, the graphic novel gets a lot more faithful to the podcast than previously. I’m not sure that this would bother new readers, but it definitely jumped out to me every time Klarg was called G’nash and so on—sort of the knock-off halloween costume feeling. Again, though, I assume there was very good reason for this, so I couldn’t hold it against them. As well, it missed directly adapting some of my favorite lines, but with 1 volume of graphic novel rather than 10ish hours of podcast, that’s bound to happen here and there—and it still got a lot of them in there.

The characters get nailed perfectly well, and I think even if you haven’t listened to the podcast, you’ll fall in love with Taako’s sarcastic verbal quirkiness, Magnus’s proficiency with a gung-ho attitude, and Merle’s general zone of obliviousness. And at the same time, it’s perfectly clear why they’d drive the NPCs—sorry, secondary characters—crazy, and we get a great look at this with our introduction to the buff Orc lady, Killian, who Pietsch draws with a lovely constant exasperation. The story very much picks up in the second half of the graphic novel, becoming a lot more unique and odd, which is also when Griffin begins diverging from the starter set and introducing his own storyline. I am extremely excited for the second volume so I can immerse myself in a story that’s Griffin’s all the way through.

Carey Pietsch’s art is delightful, playful, and very fun. It’s clean and rich with the ability to have a lot of visual impact (that one full page of the well shaft, wow), with expressive characters and bright colors. It’s also chock full of fun little visual references for the existing fans, but done in ways that shouldn’t trip up new fans (such as showing characters on the base who don’t have speaking lines, but fans are familiar with. Was that other orc Brad Bradson?!).

As for queer content, most of it I’m aware of due to having listened to the podcast, but there are some initial subtle references to Taako being gay, and one of the secondaries introduced in this volume is a lesbian, though you wouldn’t know it at this point. More queerness of various forms will come into play in further arcs.

A strong adaptation, but also a strong graphic novel in its own right, I’d recommend it to fans of the podcast and new readers alike.

Related Reviews: A Distant Soil: The Gathering by Colleen Doran | Letters for Lucardo by Noora Heikkilä

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