SEE! The illustrated exploits of three lovable dummies set loose in a classic fantasy adventure!
READ! Their journey from small-time bodyguards to world-class artifact hunters!
MARVEL! At the sheer metafictional chutzpah of a graphic novel based on a story created in a podcast where three dudes and their dad play a tabletop role playing game in real time!
Join Taako the elf wizard, Merle the dwarf cleric, and Magnus the human warrior for an adventure they are poorly equipped to handle AT BEST, guided ("guided") by their snarky DM, in a graphic novel that, like the smash-hit podcast it's based on, will tickle your funny bone, tug your heartstrings, and probably pants you if you give it half a chance.
With endearingly off-kilter storytelling from master goofballs Clint McElroy and the McElroy brothers, and vivid, adorable art by Carey Pietsch, The Adventure Zone: Here There be Gerblins is the comics equivalent of role-playing in your friend's basement at 2am, eating Cheetos and laughing your ass off as she rolls critical failure after critical failure.
I'm a big fan of The Adventure Zone podcast. So when the McElroys asked me if I wanted to write an introduction for the upcoming comic book adaptation, I gave an enthusiastic hell yes.
I just re-read my Advance Reader Copy of the book, and rather than ramble on here, I'm going to print that introduction in its entirety, so you can see how I really feel about the book:
* * *
When it comes to the Adventure Zone, and the McElroys as a whole, I'll admit that I've been late to the game.
My friends have adored them for years. But I'm stubborn, so it wasn't until November of 2016 that I finally caved to peer pressure and began sampling their unique flavor of artisanal auditory delectation.
I listened to an episode of My Brother My Brother and Me, and the McElroys hit my life like a new religion. Within two months, I'd listened to over 250 episodes of MBMBaM. And I would have made it through the entirety of their archive shortly thereafter…
… but then I discovered the Adventure Zone.
If learning about MBMBAM was like a religious conversion. The Adventure Zone was like suddenly falling in love. Plus getting hit by lightning. Plus coffee. Plus hugging Lin-Manuel Miranda while eating an ice cream sundae.
Okay. I'm not doing a good job of this. Let me start again.
For those of you who may not know, I'm a fantasy author. My books have been translated into 35 languages and sell millions of copies all over the world. I mention this not to brag, but because it's the easiest way to prove I know a little bit about stories. I story for a living. I'm pretty good at it.
So let me say, honestly and sincerely, that The Adventure Zone is some of the finest storytelling I have ever experienced. In any genre. Ever.
I also know a little bit about role playing. I've played D&D since 1982. Worked my way through every edition. (Except 4th). These days I play D&D in packed stadiums with Acquisitions Incorporated. I guest star in with Critical Role. I've visited the D&D offices, and we're currently working on some secrety collaborations together.
With that in mind, I'd like to say that The McElroys have done something with D&D I have never seen before. They've done something I didn't know it was possible to do. They've made something magical, and loving, and kind, and beautiful. The world is better because this story is in it.
I've listened to the entirety of The Adventure Zone more than three times over the last eight months. I'm not just a fan, I'm a missionary. I'm a zealot. I'm not saying I'm working on my Merle cosplay or anything…. But yeah. Fine. I'll admit it, I'm working on my cosplay.
What you hold in your hands is a brave experiment. An attempt to translate pure audio improvisational storytelling into a visual medium. I've done some work in comics, and I can't think of a harder transition for a story to make.
And I adore what they've done here. Not just in the reflected light of my affection for the Adventure Zone podcast, but as an entity distinct unto itself. I already know the story, but there are surprises here. I know what's going to happen, but I love seeing these good good boys beginning their marvelous adventure all over again.
Full disclosure: Merle has cast Zone of Truth, so this review is unreservedly honest.
If you are anything like me, you're coming to this book with years of feverish McElroy sycophancy under the belt, many of which have been spent urgently foisting The Adventure Zone and My Brother, My Brother and Me upon poor unsuspecting friends. (The Donald Duck impressions bit is my go-to introductory bit.) But whether you're a superfan or a newcomer looking to dip your toes in, I can say with full confidence that Here There Be Gerblins perfectly captures everything that makes McElboy content the wonderful, wonderful stuff that it is- the warmth and kindness, the zaniness and perpetual yes-and-ing of it all are just as present here as they are in the original TAZ podcast.
Let's just be honest: those first few episodes were a little rough. The jokes took a while to settle, and the flow of the narrative was a bit wonky at first. In Here There Be Gerblins, Clint has tidily spliced out the most egregious of the inappropriate dick jokes and all of the lengthy diversions into the minutiae of combat rules, while providing just the right amount of exposition and capturing all the best moments from the show. Carey's art style is perfectly suited to the story being told here - it is vivid and bursting with character, and she has a special knack for nailing Taako's expressions.
Reading this comic brought back all the excitement of my first listen through the Balance Arc. I closed the book with a full heart and a giant grin, just so so thankful for the incredible story that I'm now getting to experience all over again. Tres Horny Boys are just getting started, and I couldn't be happier to be along for the ride.
1. I cannot believe I snagged an ARC of this. Thanks, Macmillian. Honestly. I'm !!!! 2. ALL RIGHT, GUYS, HERE WE GO:
It's absolutely, 100%, exactly everything you always wanted.
Carey Pietsch did an absolutely MAGNIFICENT job with the character designs. And the environment designs. And literally everything, to be honest. All of the artwork is stunning. It's hard to translate something purely auditory into a visual medium, especially something so beloved that has millions of different people imagining millions of different versions of Griffin's descriptions. But Pietsch manages to synthesize an amalgam of ideas into images that are instantly recognizable. Even if it's not exactly what you or I imagined when listening to the podcast, everything and everyone is somehow exactly what I expected. Magic Brian in particular. Guys, Magic Brian looks EXACTLY how Magic Brian sounds. It's vonderful, darlings.
The facial expressions in particular are so spectacular I had a few moments where I just had to stop and stare at the panels for a few seconds like, damn.
It's not an exact word-for-word transcription of the podcast, but there are enough of the exact jokes and phrases and descriptions in there that it feels like it's a word-for-word transcription. There's nothing missing. Any catchphrases you were worried about? Don't be. They're there. Any of Griffin's wacky descriptions? He pops up and gives them. Merle's Kenny Chesney jokes? Worry not. It's cleaned up a bit, polished and shiny, a little sleeker and more streamlined, but it's still everything that everyone loves so much about the podcast: irreverent, hilarious, with that backbone of absolutely brilliant storytelling that you can't ignore, and the characters that are lovable and disgusting and wonderful, terrible people that we all know and love.
I can't stop smiling about this book. It's beautiful and funny and heartfelt. It's everything I love about The Adventure Zone, bound up in a book like a hug. I can't wait for everyone to get to read it in July. It's going to be so worth the wait. It's going to be brilliant. It IS brilliant.
So even if you think you're good out here, please rush into it. Zone of truth here: you won't regret it. I promise.
Goodreads has two stars as meaning "it was ok" and that's really how I feel about this adaptation. It had almost none of the magic of the podcast. It tries to capture at times the goofy, playful feeling the original telling of the McElroys playing together and figuring out how to make D&D work, but these attempts, to me, fell flat and felt out of place.
As such, the shining moments of the first arc of The Adventure Zone Balance, really don't come across the same. I'm thinking notably of Taako's "Abracafuck you," and the death of Magic Brian. I will allow, perhaps this comes from me as a reader expecting those jokes and consequently having them miss the mark, but I don't feel like someone with no prior knowledge of the universe could come to this graphic novel and get the same appreciation out of the story.
I almost wish they had done away with the whole D&D pretense and just told the straight up stories. The moments where the DM interjects don't feel natural, possibly because there's no initial framing with the players and the DM. Much of the charm of The Adventure Zone podcast comes from the McElroys playing off of and against each other. We still have the DM "character" in the print adaptation, but we don't have the players behind Magnus, Merle, and Taako.
This may be a case of expectation vs reality because based on other reviews, I'm an outlier. I think I would check out future adaptations, Here There Be Gerblins is arguably the weakest chapter of the Balance arc, and that probably plays a role into things, but if you're new to the Adventure Zone and curious, I would not recommend starting here.
I'm really, really biased here, so my rating counts for nothing.
I've been listening to a half-dozen McElroy (pronounced MAC-EL-ROY, not MIC-EHL-ROY — don't worry, it's a mistake everyone makes at first) podcasts for a couple of years now, The Adventure Zone among them. What initially started as a one-off "special" that the brothers did while Justin was on break from their first (and longest-running) series, My Brother, My Brother, and Me, after the birth of his first daughter, morphed into what's arguably become their most popular show, and it's easy to see why.
This book covers the first six-episode arc of their first campaign, called Balance, during which they played the 5th edition of D&D. After it wrapped at 69 (nice) episodes two years later, the boys (brothers Justin, Travis, and Griffin, and their dad, Clint) dabbled in some new stories via other tabletop games to give the others — namely Clint and Travis — a chance to DM, before deciding to settle on Griffin's "try-out" as the new "season two" of the show.
As such, The Adventure Zone is currently in the middle of Amnesty, which uses the Monster of the Week game as its foundation. It's a great new world that I've personally been really enjoying, and while the show has gone through a lot of different iterations by now, all of which have their fair share of strengths and fans, Balance remains (and will probably always remain) the favorite among fans. And for good reason.
If you haven't listened to the show yet, I urge you to do so. I could write several thousand words on what the McElroys mean to me, how much their work has helped me through some tough times, and how much I generally adore the family, but I'll leave it at this: these are good people who have done their utmost throughout the years to be as sensitive, inclusive, and accepting as possible in all things, and the world is a better place because they're in it.
Balance starts off fairly slow, because it was, as mentioned, initially just meant to be a one-off special. Nobody had a whole lot of recent experience with D&D — Clint had never played, Griffin had never DM-ed — and they were playing with the official starter pack that Wizards of the Coast sells, which has a pretty clichéd plot and silly set of characters to work with. Once it developed into a proper series, the evolution was a lovely one to watch: Griffin let his imagination run wild and proved to be an incredible storyteller, the others gave their characters amazing levels of depth and poignancy despite all of the jokes, and by the time the second arc rolled around, The Adventure Zone became something truly special. By the time it wrapped, it had become extraordinary, and easily one of the best stories I've ever watched unfold in any medium. I don't want to say too much, because one of the great joys of this campaign is how much unexpectedly greater a thing it becomes after its humble start, but know this: there's much, much, much more to it than what you see here, and it's a thing of beauty. Hence the five-star rating. There was really no way that it wasn't going to get it. I've listened to the campaign twice now, and will probably start a third run-through soon. And it will probably make me cry, as it always seems to.
This comic adaptation is about as close to capturing the lovely chaos that is the podcast in print form. A few things are lost in translation, but the only big one is that they had to tweak a few character names to avoid copyright issues with WotC, as a couple of these early players come from the starting module that they ran with (then quickly abandoned). Which means we lose out on our beloved Klarg's "proper" name, but he's still the big, adorable bugbear that we all know and love. Perhaps more so, even, given his design. You also miss out on a lot of the out-of-character banter and joking that you would expect from a family playing D&D together, but such is to be expected. Besides, that's what the podcast is for.
There is, of course, the issue that comes from turning an audio-based medium into a print one, which is that it gives these characters a definitive look that goes against a lot of headcanons and fan art. This led to some bugaboo when the designs were first revealed, particularly as it concerns the race and skin tone of certain characters (namely Taako and Merle). Perfectly valid responses, and the McElroys have noted that these designs are not "canon" but just one possible interpretation. In many ways, they were in something of a lose-lose situation, as there was no look that they could have given their cast without someone taking umbrage with it, and I think the compromise they settled on was about the best they could have done.
For my part, I'm satisfied with the designs (particularly Klarg's). Carey's artwork feels purposefully rough while still remaining colorful and warm, which seems a perfect fit for the story and its tone; the facial expressions in particular are consistently fantastic and really bring the characters to life in a way that the boys could never quite do due to the limitations of the original format. It also seems that the boys were determined to make the cast as diverse as the fans tend to imagine them and they themselves have gone to great lengths to confirm, which is an especially nice bonus.
The story is a mostly 1:1 adaptation that covers all of the good stuff of the first arc. I particularly like the way they've incorporated Griffin as the DM into the action by turning him into a fourth-wall-breaking commentator who frequently intrudes on the others' shenanigans to give them information or change things in the world. It's a smart way to make sure he's included while retaining the show's meta-heavy humor: none of these dorks ever really took things too seriously (at first), and Griffin was nevera particularly strict DM, so it's good that they've kept that spirit alive, as it ensures that the podcast's unique feel and some of the narrative's best improvised moments are retained.
The dialogue, meanwhile, is silly, clever, and funny, and it keeps all of these beloved characters intact despite the shift in medium; it's clear that Clint and his sons know one another and their characters well. Of course, it helps that they're all great at improv, so they already had plenty of good stuff to work with. The comic doesn't rewrite anything from the podcast so much as it tweaks it a bit to keep it more streamlined. And remove (most of) the dick jokes.
So if you're an Adventure Zone fan, this one is a no-brainer. If you aren't, but enjoy D&D (and aren't going to take the casual approach to it too personally) and/or fantasy comics in general, you'll probably want to get it, too.
Mostly, I wrote this review to talk about how much I love the McElroys. Ultimately very self-serving, but whatever. The next arc's adaptation is already set for a summer release, so get in now; things are going to get wild.
I mainly read this because it was a 2018 Goodreads Graphic Novel/Comics series nominee and I thought this year I would read the few I had not already read, but 1) I am not a gamer, nope never have been and 2) I am not particularly a fantasy guy. On the positive side of the ledger, I do like it that it is a father and sons project: I am a father and like that aspect of it (I almost rated it up a point just for that), but I have never listened to the podcast on which it is based.
IF you are a gamer and like Dungeons and Dragons in particular and if you listen to the podcast, and you like the father-son angle, then I suspect you are among the many who got this book nominated and garnered for it a 4.28 (as of today) rating. Otherwise, I thought it was just basically a straight fantasy romp, with mostly purple goofy artwork by Carey Pietsch.
Apparently I'm no longer one of the cool kids, because I'd never heard of this podcast before today. This is based on an RPG podcast where three brothers record their role-playing adventures with their dad. This reads exactly like one of the Dungeons & Dragons campaigns I used to have with my friends growing up. Lots of irreverence and goofing off amidst a fantasy backdrop that we actually grew to take very seriously as time was invested in our characters. I liked the look-ins from the DM. I was OK with no peeks at the people behind the characters as the dialogue provided the gist of it anyway. Besides, who wants to see panels of kids drinking lots of Mountain Dew and eating potato chips as they game? The art was cartoony but fit for the setting.
You know a story is going to be good when Patrick Rothfuss is writing the intro and a big fan. And this graphic novel was beyond good! In fact, it’s one of the best ones I’ve read yet and it only got better in my second read through. I know it’s based on a D&D podcast but you definitely don’t need to be into D&D to enjoy the hell out of this graphic novel. I for one have zero knowledge of D&D and I still absolutely devoured it. I couldn’t get enough of this hilarious story of a magical quest and insanely quirky characters! It had everything you could want: humour, swearing, magic, battles and everything else you could imagine. Add to that the fact that the illustrations are out of this world and you have pure gold!
Based off of a Dungeons and Dragons podcast run by three brothers and their dad, this adventure follows three unlikely heroes... Taako the elf wizard, Merle the dwarf cleric, and Magnus the human warrior. They set off on a quest to save Merle's cousin but things get a little bit hectic.
This graphic novel was AMAZING. It's definitely more "mature" than what I've recently read but I don't think I stopped laughing once. The characters are so lovable and witty and their banter with one another is hilarious. I honestly can't decide which of the three are my favourite... they each bring such unique personalities and characteristics to the story. Magnus is such a precious cinnamon roll and I love his go get 'em attitude. Taako's one liners were amazing and I loved how sassy he was. Merle was such a scardey cat and I loved him as well. I also loved how Griffin McElroy, the Dungeon Master was included through out the story to push the characters along when needed. The side characters were also larger than life and didn't feel like they were just included for the sake of being included. I can't wait to see where the characters take us next!
The artwork is so vivid and the facial expressions of the characters are so expressive! I loved the colours and how bright they were. The panels instantly grabbed my attention and they made me want to keep reading. Personally, I have never listened to the podcast the book is based off of but I still found it easy enough to follow and was immediately captivated by the characters and storyline. I am so excited for the second installment when it's released!
[3.5 Stars] I think I should have checked out the podcast before jumping into this. I more than likely would have appreciated this more with knowing a bit more about the authors. I also have no experience with table top games and don't know how they're generally played (cue the booing). So when they brought the dice out and talk about spell slots, I didn't fully follow. But I thought this was a fun romp with some solid art. The characters are all pretty consistent, and I enjoyed their banter. I enjoyed the ridiculous and light-hearted nature of this, so I think I'll check out the podcast to get a better idea of the people behind the story.
Doesn't quite capture the experience of listening to it, and I'm honestly not sure how clearly it would read to someone who hasn't listened, but as a supplement to the original podcast, it gave me a lot of warm fuzzy feelings of getting to hang out with a gang I love, back at the very beginning.
I'VE listened the podcast of this series and really enjoyed it so I was super interested to read the graphic novelisation of it and see how it translated. As always it's an incredibly fun story! The world building is rich and the characters are loveable oafs.
The way Griffin (the DM) is integrated into the story was very clever and there were lovely little asides where the characters would interact with him. These moments were funny and always came at the right moment, providing me with goofy laughs at the expense of what was happening in story (like they would comment on the story sometimes... it's funny and meta, you'll love it).
The art is really wonderful !The artist has done an incredible job. Facial expressions are particularly... expressive (?) and the world looks very 'fantasy'. There are bursts of colour on some pages which are lovely and add a surprising amount of impact to the story.
I thought this would be a bit of a fun read and would refresh my memory considering I listened to the podcast over a year ago. What surprised me was that the graphic format provided a completely unique way to experience this wonderful, wacky world. I'll definitely be continuing.
I'm trying to catch up on the few Goodreads Choice Awards graphic novels that I haven't read in the final round, which is why I am reading a graphic novel adaptation of a work with which I have no familiarity despite my repeated vows to myself to never do that again.
Apparently this is based on a podcast. And maybe hearing the guys talk makes all the difference, because I did not find this tribute to Dungeons & Dragons to be particularly funny, despite all the heavy-handed effort obvious on each page. Ho-hum.
Read this because it was up for the Best of 2018 Goodreads Award. This made me laugh out loud SO MANY times on my lunch break (apologies to my co-workers). No prior knowledge of D&D or of the podcast is necessary; I had no problem understanding this.
Heads up: swearing, cartoon-style violence, and questionable choices throughout--these guys are pretty much COMPLETE idiots, and everyone they meet keep questioning how in the world they have ever made it this far?! Ha! The friends do (reluctantly at times) stick up for each other, and even risk their lives for each other.
Oh you guys, I'm not sure I can really be objective when it comes to this book in particular and The Adventure Zone as a whole. The podcast itself came into my life a couple of years ago in a moment when not only was I just venturing into tabletop gaming myself, but I was struggling with severe depression and anxiety. It was exactly what I needed, and while when I started listening I was desperate for the laughs it gave me, the fact that the story deepened and grew into something really interesting as it went along is what kept me hooked. I admit, I cried listening to a D&D podcast during the climax of the Balance arc.
Now, the graphic novel adaptation of the first chapter of the story is out, and again, it came into my life at the perfect time as I deal with family medical issues. I got the book yesterday, curled up in bed with it, and finished it within a couple of hours. There's not a lot that's new here for avid listeners of the podcast. Some of the dialogue is slightly different and a few names have been changed for copyright reasons, but otherwise it's the classic adventure that started Merle, Magnus, and Taako (and their DM and babyest brother Griffin) down the path to something epic. The art work is lovely and expressive and does a great job of converting an entirely audio-based medium to something visual. I especially liked the way Griffin's role as DM was handled, with his image appearing occasionally as some sort of "god" to the characters to nudge them along, remind them of how the rules work, and occasionally just to laugh at them. It's hard to fully represent Griffin on the page when you consider that in the show he's playing virtually every other character that appears alongside Tres Horny Boys, and the translation of some of his wilder characters like Magic Brian to the graphic novel format ends up missing a little something without his voice acting, but I didn't mind. (What Magic Brian lacked was made up for with the way Killian the orc is drawn - I loved her, and I also caught the little cameo of her girlfriend Carey (namesake of the artist) at the very end!)
So in summary, I loved this book, but let's be honest, I was probably always going to love it. The real test will probably be how well it plays for people who haven't heard the podcast. I thought it seemed pretty self-contained and easy to follow, so I hope it picks up some new fans for The Adventure Zone. Now I just have to wait for the second volume, Murder on the Rockport Limited, and the introduction of one of my favorite characters, .
I'M OVERJOYED!!!! I'm so lucky that TAZ: Balance hasn't ended with the podcast and my overwhelming love for it can transfer to graphic novels now too. The story and characters translated so well from audio to visual and this was a super fun adaptation of the first arc I am SO EXCITED for more and to hopefully someday own all of Balance on my bookshelf!!
As an attempt to capture the magic of the podcast it doesn't completely work.
As an attempt to turn a podcast into a fully independent book it doesn't completely work.
Already at a disadvantage without their distinct audio delivery and interactions to sell the story, their clunky unfamiliarity with the comic format undercuts some of the best moments and most memorable jokes Then there's the bizarre decision to cut out the characters real-life counterparts.
The Adventure Zone is a Tabletop RPG podcast and cutting out the table banter and dice rolls, and never showing that Merle, Taako, and Magnus are part of a game cuts out a big part of what makes the podcast so endearing in the first place. If you're going to include the DM as a character, you need to show the players for it to make any sense to readers.
After spending years of my life on Critical Role (my first and truest love), I have now expanded my D&D world to include the hilarious and sweet Adventure Zone graphic novel and podcast. This was just stupid great. I've only listened to three episodes of the podcast and I loved seeing it reflected in the graphic novel - they did an amazing job translating this in multiple ways: from live game to podcast to GN. Amazing.
(On a side note, I'd like to read the Critical Role graphic novel as well [and buy it for my library], but they didn't release it in a way that is widely available or affordable, and as such, no libraries have it. C'mon guys!)
As someone who isn't overly familiar with DnD, I was a little hesitant to read this. However, the art won me over, and I'm so glad it did. Whilst some of the jokes will go over the heads of those who don't know DnD terminology, it's still a really fun read driven by a colourful trio. Nothing less than charming, there's something to enjoy from an outsider's perspective, and even more for pre-existing fans.
This adaptation turned out great—I’m thrilled. I’m especially appreciative of the fact that each joke felt like it deserved to be in print, and not like you were missing something by not listening to the podcast. Good job, McElboys.