Saturday, September 22, 2012

World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria (Comic)

Before I begin, I would like to say that I have absolutely no experience with any of the Warcraft games or books, nor do I wish to any time soon. That said, I first heard about the graphic novel World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria, likely made to tie into the Mists of Pandaria expansion coming soon to the MMO World of Warcraft (WoW), while reading a DC comic. What actually got me to buy it, admittedly, was that the art was done by Sean "Cheeks" Galloway, best known for his designs on the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon (which I have not seen). Having read this newly-released graphic novel with very little knowledge of the Warcraft universe, I believe that Pearl of Pandaria tells a story that holds up on its own.

The tale begins on the island turtle Shen-zin Su, where a young Pandaren named Li Li is reading letters from her Uncle Chen about his adventures in Azeroth. As a result, she desires to be adventurous herself, but her father Chon Po want her to stay on Shen-zin Su and continue Pandaren traditions. This leads to an argument between the two, after which Li Li decides to run away during the night in search of her Uncle Chen, but not without leaving a note for her father. After reading the note, Chon Po sends Li Li's trainer Bo to go after her, leading to a series of exploits as Bo and Li Li learn more about each other and the world of Azeroth.

While I am not familiar with the works of Mickey Neilson, I thought the writing of this book was fantastic. There's plenty of references to the MMO throughout, including, among the few things I was able to pick up on, the Lich King and a couple mentions of Azeroth, but they are thankfully not important to the story and serve as small nods to tie it in to WoW. Continuity aside (again, lack of experience), it is an amazing story with plenty of twists and epic moments to make the reader want to keep going. The characters of Bo and Li Li have their own character flaws that make them interesting to read about and through flashbacks you get to learn what kind of person Uncle Chen is like. The story itself isn't anything new, but the execution makes it work.

The art for Pearl of Pandaria, by Sean "Cheeks" Galloway, is simply stunning. His art style is very cartoonish, but with it he is able to express a wide range of action and emotion, especially during a truly epic clash at the end. The villains of the story look genuinely threatening, especially with the lighting placed in just the right way to enhance the effect. The backgrounds are also beautifully detailed, but are not distracting, though I can't say for myself how true they are to the WoW environments. In any case, the art fits perfectly with the narrative.

However, when I got to the end, I noticed a couple of major errors, both of which are related to the comic itself. Near the end when Li Li is speaking (I won't spoil context), her dialogue is misattributed to a character who happens to be standing right next to her (saying who would still spoil context). There is also an art error that slightly confuses the story; when Li Li is receiving an item in one panel (again, no context spoiler), she is seen with the same item in one or two panels preceding it. Aside from this, there are some other minor art errors (which I won't get into) in otherwise highly consistent visuals. Any other errors I may not have noted, however, stem from my lack of knowledge on Warcraft media.

World of Warcraft: Pearl of Pandaria is an amazing graphic novel. The story is engaging and manages to work by itself, while the art displays the events in a visually appealing way. Anyone unfamiliar with the Warcraft series will enjoy it for what it is, and the WoW references don't really get in the way. I think anyone that has actually played World of Warcraft may like it, but then again I don't know if it conflicts with any continuity (nor do I wish to find out). In any case, this is a video game comic you do not want to pass up on. This book doesn't make me want to play the MMO it ties in to, but I'm sure someone out there would be more convinced to do so.

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