This review of World of Warcraft: Dragons of Outland Volume 1 – Shadow Wing is of the spoiler-free variety.
The first question everyone asks when they read the title of this new manga is “Why Outland?” It’s a valid question, most players don’t set foot on the floating debris of Draenor anymore. We’re done with that world. Richard Knaak is not. He doesn’t abandon a location just because it is no longer the hot dance club.
The Dragons of Outland series is a direct sequel to The Sunwell Trilogy that Richard Knaak and Jae-Hwan Kim produced as the first Blizzard manga. In Shadow Wing we see the return of Tyrygosa and Jorad Mace, two prominent characters created by Knaak for the earlier collaboration. The tale is a recanting of their initial excursion to Outland. The pair arrived separately and for different reasons, but soon realize that their goals are one and the same.
Hit the jump to read the rest of the spoiler-free review.
The short format of a manga does not allow Knaak to drone on about the pasts of these characters. Chapter 1 touches upon done deeds as a quick introduction. Throughout the tale we are given off-hand remarks and soliloquies to remind us of The Sunwell Trilogy and the role Jorad and Tyri play in that epic tale. Those unversed in the Extended Universe will miss some of these details, but that goes with the territory.
Knaak wastes no time getting Tyri and Jorad together and back in action. After saving Jorad from a mob of demons, he and Tyri head towards Honor Hold only to be seized by a dragon-snaring mechanism. Narrowly escaping a deadly plummet, Jorad is awoken and taken captive by a tribe of Krokul that pull him away from an ensuing dragon assault. Tyrygosa is left to fend for herself against a pair of nether dragons. Upon detecting an unknown marker in their essence, Tyri ends the battle in an effort of diplomacy. The nether dragons, Zzeraku and Valoku, flee instead of chatting.
Unbeknown to our protagonists, we learn exactly what assaulted Jorad and Tyri in the first place, a magical trap meant to capture nether dragons. To capture them and enslave them for Ragnok Bloodreaver, one of the original horde-based death knights, to bolster his ranks for a takeover bid of Outland. With the plot clearly laid out Knaak turns the story to one of action. The unusual trio of dragon, human and Warrith, head of the Broken clan, head after the childish nethers, enabling Jae-Hwan to flex his artistic muscle. Knaak and Kim use the journey to twang our nostalgic sense, mentioning Illidain’s ascension as leader of the Black Temple, touching upon the Draenei/Human alliance, and battling gronn in the pointy death of Blade’s Edge Mountains.
I (generally) dislike Knaak when he’s penning for the longer format, but his talent at manga is superb. His stories are well paced, split between progression and action, and, as always, his story arcs are interesting reads. Kim seems to understand exactly what needs highlighting in the tales, bringing everything to life. His artwork affects everything you’d expect, from facial expressions and intricate character detail to the lush backgrounds (something that matters to me when reading manga and comics). His talent effectively portrays the specifics that Knaak cannot (due to the format). If Shadow Wing has one fault, it’s that it took so long to be released. The constant delays made the major hook for Volume 2 completely… known. And, yet, I still look forward to it.
World of Warcraft: Dragons of Outland Volume 1 – Shadow Wing is available for pre-order now, and will be released on June 1. World of Warcraft: Dragons of Outland Volume 2 – Nexus Point is scheduled for release on November 2, by which time we’ll be well into Cataclysm.