This installment of the Dungeons & Dragons graphic novel series opens with a group of traveling miners caught in a blizzard in the Icewind Dale area when they are overcome by anger and start brawling, which ruins their cart and leads to the death of almost the entire party. The only survivor is the driver, Amos, and his leg was injured in the cart crash. Luckily, Runa, a nearby warrior, follows the wolves previously pulling the cart and arrives just in time to save Amos from a remorhaz that bursts out of the mountain and consumes the last of the cart and all of its contents. Runa finds herself facing the remorhaz alone while trying to keep Amos in one piece until she loses her ax in the beast’s eye and a passing dragonborn ranger named Saarvin, avails himself to save her life.
Runa decides to travel with Saarvin until she can repay the blood debt and save his life, so the three of them travel to Ten Towns to see if the local druid can heal Amos’ injured leg. Upon arrival to the town’s tavern, another brawl has broken out between two drunken humans over a bag of chardalyn, which introduces Patience the tiefling and her employer, Belvyre the druid. Amos convinces the party that they should look for the magic-filled lost city his miner companions were discussing in order to find plants that could survive the magical blizzard and help feed Ten Towns, which is almost out of food supplies. Along their travels, they must fight and defeat several frost giant skeletons, recover from a betrayal, overcome a confrontation with Runa’s family, and save a duergar army from a volcanic eruption.
This graphic novel ties in with the recently released D&D Icewind Dale adventure from Wizards of the Coast and does a good job of providing a sense of the terrifying creatures and icy conditions players could encounter were they to travel through the area. Overall, the story makes sense and follows a typical adventure path as the party forms and moves deeper into the dungeon. The side characters brought some extra worldbuilding even though they felt like forgettable non-player characters (NPCs). The main characters stayed pretty flat throughout the story with the exception of Amos, who exemplifies the bad guy with a heart of gold trope. Seasoned Dungeons & Dragons players will catch the Easter eggs sprinkled throughout, but new readers will still be able to enjoy the story as well.
The colored art does a great job of adding atmosphere to the story and identifying our main characters in a blizzard of snowy white and gray. It is highly detailed with a care for shading to add extra depth, which helps immerse the reader in a fantasy world. I particularly loved the facial expressions that conveyed a wide range of emotions from anger to sulking to big-bellied laughter. Although this would not be a core title to include in an average graphic novel collection, if you have a population interested in gaming in general, or D&D specifically, this title would do well. Be aware that there is violence and blood depicted throughout, so it’s probably for teens or older readers.
Dungeons & Dragons: At The Spine of the World
By AJ Mendez, Aimee Garcia
Art by Martin Coccolo
Related media: Game to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Latinx, Uruguayan
Character Representation: Black