This review of the World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria novel by Micky Neilson is of the spoiler-free variety. Check out the entire Blizzard catalog in our Extensive Extended Universe post.
You may think that a comic released alongside Mists of Pandaria would revolve around the newly-discovered island in World of Warcraft but you’d be mostly incorrect. Nelson, who said the comic originated when The Burning Crusade was all the rage, wrote it figuring the Pandaria would never see its own expansion. The tale was to explore the (original April Fool’s Day) lore and culture of the Pandarian people and the famous brewmaster and wanderer Chen Stormstout. Instead the tale was opened up to span Azeroth, from Shen-zin Su to Stormwind that, at parts, almost feels like a travel agency’s pitch to why you should be interested in the universe.
Interspersed to the lush visuals and descriptions of various locations that have been masterfully drawn by Sean Galloway is a cute coming of age and generational story of Li Li Stormstout chasing after her uncle Chen that has gone missing and presumed dead by many on the Wandering Isle. And yet the story is filled with references to the famed beer cultures of the Pandaren and Dwarven people. A bit odd with a coming of age story. Throughout the tale Li Li maintains an upbeat and unflappable outlook on life, the world and its many people, which consistently annoys Stongbo, her protective companion and a former friend of Chen.
Unlike many graphic novels, Neilson makes heavy use of the written world to explain the past, from Shen-zin to Liu Lang, as he hints at the events of the Wrath of the Lich King era while Li Li continues her search. And yes, as you might expect everyone’s shocked at seeing these two traveling pandaren. Exactly what gets them into trouble. Galloway doesn’t miss a beat, perfecting Li Li’s expressions of sarcasm, wit, anger and self loathing in the unique and cel-shaded style of Pearl of Pandaria.
Pearl of Pandaria may have been originally penned as a standalone story, but through updates and the expansion of Pandarian culture thanks to MoP, the story is easily continued in Quest for Pandaria. Being fully contained, the story arc ramps up to its culmination very quickly. In fact, the antagonist arc seems rudimentary, background to the traveling pandaren. Great fanservice, from throwbacks to Warcraft III to Brewfest to mentions of major lore plots, and Li Li’s petulant intelligence wrapped in wanderlust made for an interesting, if short, adventure.
Interested in exploring World of Warcraft’s recent lore further?
Mickey Nielson is the Publishing Lead and Lead Story Developer for Blizzard Entertainment and constantly cited in the Special Thanks sections from authors such as Golden and Knaak. He has focused most of his external story efforts on the Warcraft universe, including Paragons, War of the Shifting Sands, Ashbringer and Curse of the Worgen.
You can purchase a hardcover edition of the most recent WoW novel, War Crimes, for less than a Jefferson. Vol’jin recently saw his own novel, the Dawn of the Aspects story arc was the first digital only release, making way for the recent release of Paragons, formerly known as Blood of the Highborne.
Check out all of the novelizations of Blizzard products in the our Extensive Extended Universe rundown.