Ravenloft – Orphan of Agony Isle” – Multiversity Comics

There are plenty of comics out there, but some stand head and shoulders above the pack. With “Don’t Miss This”, we want to highlight the series that we think should be on your shortlist. This week we enter the Demiplane of Dread as we visit Lamordia in “Ravenloft – Orphan of Agony Isle”.

Who is it by?

The first issue of “Dungeons & Dragons: Ravenloft” was written by Zoë Quinn, but this week’s issue 2 and issue 3 are by Casey Gilly, who also wrote the backup story for issue 1. Casey doesn’t is no stranger to writing comic adaptations. She wrote for BOOM! Studios’ “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” comics, IDW’s “My Little Pony” and even the “Star Wars Adventures” line. She’s also known for her work on comics like ‘Woman Magnificent’ and ‘You Died’, so she has a well-varied background to draw on for what might be her darkest work to date.

Beyleigh Underwood takes care of the art, bringing her experience from comic books like “Reflection” and “The Last Champion.” Their art is well suited to comics, bringing a gothic flair to the setting while keeping the character designs simple but recognizable.

Accompanying the art of Underwood is color work by Patricio Delpeche and Agustina Vallejo. The two have previously worked together on comics like BOOM! “Angel” by Studios, bringing a dark, otherworldly look to colors.

Each issue also has a back-up story, featuring a different writer and artist. While Casey wrote the backup for issue #1, the backup for issue #2 was written by Ryan Cady, with art by Vincenzo Riccardi. This week’s issue #3 features a backup story written by Ro Mediavilla, with art by Kayla Felty.

What is it about?

“Orphan of Agony Isle” takes the “Dungeons & Dragons” comics outside of the Forgotten Realms and into Ravenloft, the Demiplane of Dread. Specifically, it takes us to the dreaded domain of Lamordia, where we meet Dr. Viktra Mordenheim – and as you’ve probably guessed, it’s no coincidence that his name sounds a bit like “Victor Frankenstein”.

Yet she is not the point of view character. Instead, we follow the titular orphan, who has woken up in Viktra’s lab with no memory of her past. It is through his eyes that we discover the mystery that surrounds Lamordia, his dark lord and supposed enemy.

Considering the domains of Ravenloft are designed to keep their dark lords trapped in a hell of their own making, this is an excellent fit for a character to follow. There’s a sense of mystery about it, and we can feel a tangible sense of dread and anticipation as Viktra could snap at any moment. But we know there’s more to the point-of-view character, so the mystery keeps readers engaged.

At the end of each issue, backup stories explore different areas of Ravenloft. D&D lore, as well as the moderately recent “Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft”, revealed that there are multiple realms of dread, each with their own genre of horror, so these savegames give us the opportunity to explore each of them and experience their own flavors of dread.

What makes it so awesome?

“Ravenloft – Orphan of Agony Isle” is a unique genre of “Dungeons & Dragons” comics. It pulls out the Forgotten Realms story and explores another realm of the D&D multiverse. It gives us a dark, gothic horror story set in a less explored (but still popular) setting, fleshing out that corner of its world and building characters there.

All the while, it builds mystery and tension as the story progresses. Viktra is a (potentially antagonistic) character with a kind of horror about her that feels all too real – the kind of person who pretends to protect and help someone while flying around in fits of rage without warning. It’s one thing to go out and kill monsters, but it’s another when the monster claims to have saved your life and says it wants to help you, when you have nowhere to go. (In fact, that kind of horror might also make this comic too close for some, so consider that a content warning.)

The Backup Stories also help expand the setting by giving us snippets from other areas of Ravenloft, each with their own brand of horror. They are short but tragic and are filled with inspiration for any Dungeon Masters considering creating their own Ravenloft campaigns. (Barovia is perhaps the most famous, though readers may have already visited it in Jim Zub’s “Shadows of the Vampire” comic, which was also excellent.)

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Additionally, each save story also brings its own artists, creating visually unique stories each time. This further adds to the differentiation between the different areas and gives each its own distinct style.

Of course, the art and color work goes a long way in setting the mood and pushing the story forward. Bayleigh Underwood’s illustrations capture Ravenloft’s gothic style, while sprinkling in nicely spooky detail where appropriate. The characters have a level of expressiveness that helps guide how readers feel about them, from the protagonist’s wide-eyed innocence (even when half of his face is covered in bandages) to the unsettlingly neutral expression of Viktra and her sudden shift to burning rage.

The color work of Patricio Delpeche and Agustina Vallejo also does a great job of adding to the overall tone. Pages often have a tint of a certain color over all images, or rely on swatches of a single color, to define each scene. They usually use haunting, unnatural shades to set the mood, which also seem to reflect the moods and overall tension of the characters.

So if you (like me) can’t get enough “Dungeons & Dragons” content, or want a sufficiently spooky fantasy horror comic, “Orphan of Agony Isle” is hard to go wrong.

Where can I read it?

You can find the first two issues of “Ravenloft – Orphan of Agony Isle” at your local comic book store, online at IDW’s website, or at Comixology. Number 3 comes out this week.

Once all four issues are out, you can expect a paperback collecting them. In the meantime, you might enjoy Jim Zub’s “Baldur’s Gate” comic book paperbacks (it certainly does), also available wherever the comics are sold.

About Johanna Gooding

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