Title: The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
Author: Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Carey Pietsch (Artist)
Publisher: First Second Books
Release Date: July 17th, 2018
Genre(s) and Subject(s):
Graphic Novel, Fantasy, D&D
Page Count: 256 (paperback)
I tried to not make this a review about The Adventure Zone The Podcast because you can 100% read this comic as a standalone, but I’ll just say this: if you’ve never listened to TAZ before, I highly, highly recommend that you give a couple of episodes a try. Even if you’re someone who’s like, “D&D what? Fantasy who?” I have converted non-gamers and fantasy naysayers into worshipers of this podcast. My friend, whose only knowledge of RPGs came from what she saw on The Big Bang Theory, is now a fanatic. The McElroys will do that to you.
It will fill your life with giggles, rainbow dust, and baby penguins. In fact, here’s a baby penguin imploring you to please, oh pretty please, go check out TAZ:
C’mon. How can you deny that face?
And if you’re thinking, “But I already watch/listen to Critical Role! I don’t need another D&D podcast in my life. That’d be cheating!”–trust me, TAZ is an entirely different beast. So think of it as loving your significant other but also loving your dog. Nothing wrong with that! (…Right?)
First, let’s introduce our main cast and crew:
Meet Taako (pronounced “taco”), an elf wizard played by Justin McElroy. He used to star in a cooking show called “Sizzle It Up with Taako”, but it ended in a bit of a disaster, so he’s now stuck being a full-time adventurer. (He’s also super queer but we don’t find that out in this first arc)
Pietsch’s early sketches of Taako showed him to be white in skin tone, but due to backlash from the fandom, he’s been changed to…blue. Which is fair.
Here’s Magnus Burnsides! Played by Travis McElroy! He’s a human figher who lives by the motto of “act first, think later,” with his catchphrase being “Magnus rushes in!” He’s proficient in many things including animals and vehicles. (And wolf-throwing, apparently)
Merle Hitower Highchurch, a dwarf cleric played by Clint McElroy (father of these goofballs). He carries around an Extreme Teen Bible to help educate the modern youth on the good word of his god Pan. His favourite go-to spell is “Zone of Truth” (which makes everyone in the immediate area tell the truth).
And finally we have Griffin McElroy as the illustrious Dungeon Master.
Our heroes’ tale starts out with an offer from Merle’s cousin, Gundren Rockseeker, who claims that he has “the last job [they’ll] ever need to take.” Which sounds, well, pretty awesome!
…And a little too good to be true.
The trio soon find themselves neck deep in a cave full of goblins (“gerblins”), tangled up in goblin gang politics, uncovering a mysterious artifact, and having some nice tea with an enemy.
I can only imagine the sheer head-splitting frustration that comes with trying to adapt an audio-only improv media, so kudos to the McElroys and Carey Pietsch for pulling it off.
The art is perfect. It’s cute and dynamic and everything from the characters’ facial expressions to the scenery is done with a lot of care and detail. We get the iconic moments from the podcast plus some new scenes that will delight both the veterans and the newcomers.
The story itself is goofy, action-packed, and super charming (and filled with swears, so probably not something you want to be reading to your kids). This first arc is kind of your standard fantasy adventure, but it lays down the foundation for the rest of the campaign story, where the really crazy and exciting stuff happens.
Despite me yelling at you to go listen to TAZ, I’m aware that not everyone can access them, so I’m happy this comic provides a way for more people to get acquainted with these beloved, idiot characters and the start of an adventure that’s stuffed to the brim with imagination, gut-splitting humour, and a lot of heart.
So buckle up, folks. It’s going to be a wild ride.