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World of Warcraft: Shaman manga review

World of Warcraft: Shaman is a new manga from TOKYOPOP. It’s written by Paul Benjamin (known as co-writer with Dave Shramek of the Starcraft: Frontline series, Weapon of War [Vol. 1], War-Torn [Vol. 3], Orientation[Vol. 4]). Pretty much you already love this writer if you enjoyed the Colin Phash storyline. This new WarCraft manga is part of a line of class stories based on key characters of the World of Warcraft mythos.

imageThe first one of these class series debuted with DEATH KNIGHT (by Dan Jolley and Rocio Zucchi) which dealt with the backstory of Thassarian. MAGE (by Richard A. Knaak) dealt with the Nexus War and the invasion of Dalaran’s Violet Hold, and how a young mage disciple helped thwart the initial invasion of Malygos and its azure flight.

All three class mangas, in synthesis, inspire you to question what makes your class special, what’s your class’ origins, motives and beliefs.

SHAMAN is definitely another home run in the series. It’s been probably the most awaited manga in the class series for a couple of reasons: it is a Cataclysm expansion tie-in; and its main character is well-known only by old Warcraft lore fans.

The “most awaited Warcraft manga” might be an exaggeration by most people considering this character has never been an NPC in the World of Warcraft MMO. That group of fans who read the World of Warcraft RPG: Dark Factions book by White Wolf Publishing stood on their toes when they heard a few months ago this character would be the main character of this manga.

The reason? High Shaman Muln Earthfury is the leader of the Earthen Ring. A Tauren. He is a legend among Warcraft lore fans. Like the Ashbringer, which started as hearsay among NPCs, fans went crazy elaborating theories and started exploring all of Azeroth in search of clues — for lack of info or a presence in-game. The Warcraft RPG book elaborated the backstory of the Ashbringer, and later Blizzard released the Naxxramas dungeon in Eastern Plaguelands. Later, Micky Neilson wrote the World of Warcraft: Ashbringer comic book (Wildstorm) and that Ashbringer legend has been fleshed out nicely in-game thereafter in Wrath of the Lich King.

At this point, Muln Earthfury has been a legend among fans. The long-wait is over folks. This is the real deal. Muln Earthfury lives, he is canon, and you will have more things to talk about him in wikis and forums. The question is … will we see Muln Earthfury as an NPC in the game? The answer: Yes.

Tokyopop Editor Troy Lewter sent me a copy for review. This manga is no fruit, but my mouth was watering all over when I was opening the package as if it were.

World of Warcraft: Shaman starts with a short recap of the War of the Three Hammers as an intro to how the earth trembled, 257 years ago, with the accidental summoning of Ragnaros into Azeroth. Sorcerer-Thane Thaurissan invoked a desperate spell and unbeknownst to him he summoned an elemental lord. Even Kalimdor felt the tremors of the earth, and the uneasiness of the elemental spirits around the world. Tremors that caused deep consequences and casualties to the Tauren.

The tauren Shotoa was born with a unnatural connection with the elemental spirits, in contrast with other shaman apprentices. The tremors of the earth took away the life of his apprentice. His raging emotions no doubt helped shape his view of the elemental spirits and to question his faith in the old traditions of the shaman. Shotoa determined the tauren should control the elemental spirits by force, to be their master, rather than imploring their help humbly.

The story goes fast-forward in the second chapter of this manga. Exactly 27 years after the Dark Portal was opened between Azeroth and Draenor. That places World of Warcraft: Shaman manga’s timeline in synch with World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King during the pre-Cataclysm world event. (thanks Omacron)

The story of Muln Earthfury begins here, in the Bloodhoof Village, teaching his disciple the ways of the Shaman. She is a young female orc named Kettara Bloodthirst. The manga gives you small glimpses into the recent past when Muln and Kettara first met (five years ago, year 22). After a centaur and elemental attack upon Bloodhoof Village, their savior turns out to be Shotoa — long thought dead when the earth itself swallowed him 257 years ago.

This manga challenges fans to question their knowledge about ancient shamanic traditions. Should the tauren implore humbly for the aid of the elemental spirits, or should they demand and control their powers by force of will?

Fans who have read the World of Warcraft comic book (by Walter Simonson, Wildstorm) know how the ordeal went with Med’an and Cho’gal, the Twilight’s Hammer in Ahn’Qiraj and the chaotic awakening of the elementals in an effort to weaken the barrier between Azeroth and the Elemental Plane. What we see in the printed stories soon or later become reality in the MMO, and as Cataclysm beta testers have learned, there are elementals raging chaos everywhere in the game, and Twilight’s Hammer inciting them against their enemies.

The Twilight’s Hammer helped Deathwing break the barrier between Deepholm and Azeroth at the center of the Maelstrom — as you will learn in Cataclysm quests. The elemental spirits are in turmoil and confused. The Earthen Ring is hard pressed as the elemental spirits ignore their call.

Will the shaman society embrace a new way, or continue their old traditions in the upcoming Cataclysm?

World of Warcraft: Shaman hits local and online bookstores on Tuesday, September 28th, 2010.

Artwork

If you loved the artwork of World of Warcraft: Death Knight, then you will love World of Warcraft: Shaman. Rocio Zucchio penciled both. She’s amazing. As you can read in the Rocio interview at the end of this manga, she has no time to play World of Warcraft. Yet, she’s hit the nail with the Tauren’s looks. It’s her first time drawing tauren, and her past experiences drawing previous Warcraft manga have helped her mature as an artist.

That short recap of the Three Hammers War really makes you wish she takes on a Dwarf manga. Those huge battle scenes with dozens of dwarves probably took her a while. So detailed. Michael Paolilli as usual does a great job with lettering and adding tonality, different shades, to each artwork. The manga is not just black lines on a white paper. They are thoroughly worked up with different shades of gray to mimic a painting.

Characters

Muln Earthfury: High Shaman of the Earthen Ring.
Kettara Bloodthirst: Muln’s apprentice female orc shaman
Zur’ak Firefist: male troll shaman (Earthen Ring)
Lenka: female tauren shaman
Krelna: female draenei shaman
Thrall: Warchief of the Horde, a member of the Earthen Ring.
Drek’Thar: Far Seer of the Frostwolf clan.
Oreg Earthfury: Great-Grandfather of Muln, and best friend of Shotoa.

Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com since 2003 posting news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Next-Gen MMO, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for Diablofans.com (formerly Diablo3.com)

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