The Novel Post: Warcraft: Legends Volume 1 (Free for Download on iPad/iPhone through Thursday)

This review of Warcraft: Legends Volume I is of the spoiler-free variety.

The five-volume Warcraft: Legends series has been out for a good while now, with the first book released in 2008 and the other volumes coming out over the course of about a year. But I had not yet had the chance to read them, and they actually had been off my radar for quite some time until last week when Cryptozoic announced that it had acquired exclusive rights to distribute digital versions of Blizzard’s extended universe manga.

Along with that announcement came the promotion of offering the first volume of Warcraft: Legends for free via the new Cryptozoic Comics app for iPhone and iPad. I jumped on that opportunity, and although it’s a bit belated, wanted to share my thoughts on the book for those of you also pondering the acquisition of free goodies while they’re still gratis.

Legends offers a diverse line of four unrelated stories set in various stages of the Warcraft universe.

The first story, Fallen is a collaboration between Richard Knaak and Jae-Hwan Kim. The first part of the Trag Highmountain story, Fallen follows up from the Sunwell Trilogy. The tauren Trag, who readers were first introduced to in Warcraft: Shadows of Ice, finds himself reborn as one of the undead after defeating the Baron Valimar Mordis. Mordis who had stolen the orb of Ner’zhul from the scourge and raised a frost wyrm, ultimately intending to spread the will of the forsaken. Trag crushed both the Baron and the orb — but in doing so cursed himself to undeath.

This new story begins with Trag appealing to a tauren shaman named Sulamm to help him live again. A couple of hefty plot twists drive suspense and surprise into the story, which is continued in the second volume of the manga. The artwork in this story, is quite good, but actually my least favorite style of the four stories in the volume. It accomplishes what it needs to – but I felt the expressions displayed a small range of emotions compared to what was being portrayed in the story.This also could just be my personal style preference, and I would say it did not prevent me from enjoying the story.

The other aspect of this particular story that I did not enjoy was the narration. In addition to thought and speech bubbles, the story also is driven by narration presented in their own distinct style. Unfortunately, this style proved, for me, to be difficult to read at times, which pulled me out of the story. Thankfully, the ability to zoom in this format saved me from too much frustration. Aside from this, I enjoyed the story and am looking forward to reading its conclusion in the next volume.

All three of the remaining stories are one-shots that can be enjoyed completely on their own. I read them all in one sitting, but in the future I would probably rather enjoy each one-shot Legends story on its own so I have more time to digest them individually before moving to the next.

The second story, The Journey, by Troy Lewter, Mike Wellman and Mi-Young No, focuses on the life of a poor farmer named Halsand whose life is changed when he meets a band of adventurers on their way to reclaim the Scoucrge-ridden city of Andorhal. Halsand, who happens to be more familiar with the area than any of those in the group, is convinced that he can greatly improve the life of his family with the award of a heap of gold promised to him, if he can only lead the group to their destination.

I must admit, I enjoy the art style of this story much more than the previous one, and the story is quite good, too, driven by the honest desire of Halsand to provide more for his wife and three children. More characters are at play in this story, and each one is at least slightly developed, albeit perhaps a bit too much to the stereotypes that their races produce.

Overall, a good, quick read of the horrors of life in Azeroth amongst the Scourge.

The third story, How to Win Friends, is an upbeat tale of Lazlo, a gnome who is new to the city of Kharanos, in Dun Morogh, and is eager to make friends amongst the other dwarves and gnomes there. While Lazlo is known for his quality work in making flawless fuses, he has yet to earn the respect of his neighbors on any other merits. But when the appearance of a pissed-off troll nearby the city gets everyone in a panic, Lazlo might just get the opportunity he’s been waiting for.

Beautifully drawn with great expression and a good mix of scenic panels where needed and story-progressing dialogue, this was probably my favorite of the four stories, and a very fun read.

The one problem I had was the way in which the story portrayed the bad-guy troll, which suggested to me that perhaps the authors were much better versed in alliance politics than horde, but that wasn’t a huge issue for me. If it takes a big, scary, stupid troll to progress the storyline, then I guess that’s that.

Finally, we’ve come to An Honest Trade, by Troy Lewter and Nam Kim. This story focuses on Nori Blackfinger the legendary dwarf blacksmith who, in order to expand his business, takes it from the Thorium Point, deep within the Searing Gourge to the bustling port town of Booty Bay.

And indeed, when he turns a bling eye and will crafts the finest of weapons to any and all who can pay the right price, Nori successfully increases his profits many times over. But in doing so, he alienates his son, Eli, who disagrees with that stance and wishes his father would focus a more critical eye on his clientele, who were becoming seedier and seedier. When Nori eventually sells a sword to Havoc, who is known throughout the land as a bandit and murderer, a tragedy strikes that forces Nori to rethink his ways.

This story also was captivating from start to finish, with an interesting twist at the end that thoughtful readers will catch on to before the final pages.

All in all, I would highly recommend all fans of Warcraft lore to give the first volume of Legends a shot if you haven’t already — especially while it is free to do so. After reading the first volume, you can decide whether you want to continue with the series in the following volumes. Since all but the first story are one-shots, I’m not left in too much suspense, but enough that I think I’ll grab the next volume.