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Blizzplanet Review: Diablo III: Book of Cain

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Materials | Review | Press Letter | Content List | Credits | Gallery

Diablo III: Book of Cain is the official Diablo universe lore source book written by Flint Dille (The Transformers) with the collaborative assistance of Chris Metzen, Micky Neilson and Matt Burns from the Blizzard Entertainment Creative Team.

Blizzplanet got a copy of Diablo III: Book of Cain, courtesy of Insight Editions and its publicity manager, Carlie Demelo. Special thanks to her for the giveaway copies for our visitors.

I’ll begin the review of Diablo III: Book of Cain. Take a seat, and buckle up.

Materials

Insight Editions took very special care of the publishing process, production and appearance aspect of Diablo III: Book of Cain.

When you hold this book on your hand, you will notice the excellent care to details over its materials. The cover has the Diablo skull and all the stylish ornamental embroidery. All the outer-edge of the skull and the ornamental images are embossed. Embossing is made by letterpress machines which raise the level of the image using pressure and heat. The eyes and mouth are debossed causing a recession or hole appearance. You can feel the lines and holes with your fingers making the Diablo skull design sort of 3D, both visually and tactile. The cover treatment is a matte finish with both embossing and debossing.

The red rectangle with the Diablo III: Book of Cain logo is actually not part of the cover itself. It’s a separate removable paper, or belly band, wrapped around the cover flaps. The belly band is loose on the front cover, but it’s firmly held on the back cover.

What’s holding the belly band tight there? An envelope glued on the interior of the back cover, with a sticker in the shape of a candle seal. The candle seal resembles the image shown in page 145, which I’m guessing is the symbol of the Great Families of Xiansai (I might be wrong).

“What’s in this envelope?” — you ask. Within the envelope is a folded poster of the Sanctuary Map. The map itself is a die cut with irregular edges along its border — obviously a real-life old scroll replica.

When you see the side of the book where all the pages are, and pass your finger through its thickness, you will feel a sandy texture on your fingertips. It looks like rugged cardboard to give it a old paper feel of ancient scrolls.

Taking a single page between my fingers, I could see what gave that texture. The edge of each single page has been cut in irregular shapes giving it a feathered appearance. If you slide your finger along the edge of the page you won’t feel the straight line cut of normal pages, it’s a rugged surface. I’m told this is known as deckled edges.

Each page has a yellow-orange 2D texture to resemble papyrus or ancient scroll paper.

Insight Editions wanted this book to delicately resemble a real world replica of the in-game Book of Cain item. I’m completely astonished with the material and printing processes of Diablo III: Book of Cain. This is a book leaking design excellence, as you would always expect from a Blizzard licensed product.

Quick Look Inside

Usually, books have a page with the name of the publisher, the writer and all the credits, the publishing year and copyright notices, and even a introduction message or dedicatory. Blizzard licensed books, in specific, usually have a glossary and/or reference list telling you all the books where determined topics originate from in continuity in the last pages.

Insight Edition went in a different direction.

The first page says: “Take heed, and bear witness to the truths that lie within. For they are the last legacy of the Horadrim.”

There’s no credit page, or copyright notices nor a content list in the initial pages.

You will see the title … Diablo III: Book of Cain in the initial pages; where the only thing written is: “text by Flint Dille” and “Insight Editions”.

After that page comes the letter addressed to Leah by Deckard Cain which she is meant to read after his death. This is the page Insight Editions recently shared in public during the 12 Days of Diablo III: Book of Cain. That was only page one of three. The letter offers more details.

At the end of the book you will see another letter to Leah. Finally, the last page contains the copyright notices and credits.

Materials | Review | Press Letter | Content List | Credits | Content List | Gallery

World of Warcraft: The Shattering Review

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World of Warcraft: The Shattering by Christie Golden was in the Top 25 New York Times Bestselling Hardcover Fiction List for around five consecutive weeks.

It’s no wonder. The novel is a World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion tie-in. A prequel.

In this novel, Deathwing has not yet emerged from Deepholm. However, most of the story setting seen in the expansion is mentioned in the novel. Thus, the novel reveals how things came to be the way they are in-game.

For example, the main topic of the novel revolves around Thrall. What led him to vanquish his title as Warchief. The elements are in distress, and at times don’t listen to the call of the Shamans.

The earthquakes, storms, tsunami, and fires keep increasing as weeks go by with no definite source to what’s causing the worldwide problem.

Thrall decides to embark into a long journey to learn more about his shamanic and spiritualist ancestry in order to learn what’s going on in Azeroth, and in learning, be able to help the elements.

Not much of a spoiler because most of players already experienced the pre-Cataclysm world event and its phases.

Remember that scene when Thrall goes to Nagrand to learn at the Throne of the Elements? We see all the story prior to Thrall arriving there unravel.

Grandmother Geyah wasn’t able to teach her grandson Thrall, err Go’el, but her right-hand: Aggra, obeys her wish to take the task.

Thrall learned shamanism from Drek’Thar long ago, as seen in the novel Warcraft: Lord of the Clans. However, Drek’Thar didn’t have the necessary tools to do the rituals and tests Thrall required.

The ritual should have been done surrounded by a community of Shamans while Thrall enters a deep trance to face his trials before the element spirits.

The relationship between Aggra and Thrall is a tempest during his training. It’s revealed why she is so angry at him. However, I can say Chris Metzen kept his word that Thrall would be falling in love, as stated a few BlizzCon ago.

It wasn’t Garona as he joked, but now we know he wasn’t able to talk about Aggra yet without spoiling certain things about Cataclysm. Christie Golden is a legend when it comes to bringing forth the emotive feelings in her writing style. You won’t want to miss this interesting hate/love interaction between Thrall and Aggra.

The Shattering is not just about Thrall, however. For the first time in a novel, Prince Anduin Wrynn takes most of the spotlight. We have seen Anduin and his mindset in the World of Warcraft comic book under the hands of Walter Simonson, but Christie Golden had the opportunity to really polish and dye-finish what Walter clay molded.

A comic book has a bit over 20 pages, while a novel has 352 pages.

There’s a broader approach with the nearly mother-like relationship between Lady Jaina Proudmoore and Anduin throughout the novel. Anduin also grows gradually in maturity. At the end of the novel, the child Anduin we know ends up more like an adult teenager understanding and executing the concept of politics, and diplomacy as he would once he becomes King. We see Anduin falling in … love?, for the first time.

King Varian Wrynn decided to let Anduin stay in Ironforge for a while, hoping he would be trained to be a glorious warrior the way he was trained as a child himself. His primary reason for this decision was to keep his boy away from him, while he deals with his Lo’gosh personality and inner-demons.

In the pre-Cataclysm world event, we helped a courier that was under attack by the Twilight Hammer to take from him a tablet from Ulduar. This is further explored when one of the tablets reach Ironforge.

King Magni wishes to lead the tablet ritual himself hoping to commune with the earth to understand what’s so wrong that the elements are in disarray, and to help. Things go wrong. So wrong.

King Magni Bronzebeard transforms into pure diamond before the astonished eyes of Anduin, High Priest Rohan, Belgrun and Magellas.

This later leads to a coup in Ironforge when Moira Bronzebeard comes to claim her heritage as Empress of Ironforge, leader of two kingdoms.

In this novel, we see how the Council of Three Hammers is formed, which is composed of Moira (Dark Iron Representative), Muradin (Bronzebeard Representative) and Falstad (Wildhammer Representative). This is what triggered the whole Red Shirt Guy thing during BlizzCon 2010. He read The Shattering a few days prior to BlizzCon, and noticed Kurdran Wildhammer was in Ironforge’s Throne Room instead of Falstad.

Another aspect of the pre-Cataclysm world event is seen with Garrosh taking the mantle of Warchief when Thrall assigns him to watch over the Horde while he goes to Nagrand to learn how to help Azeroth’s elemental spirits.

Christie fleshed out the whole Garrosh vs Cairne Bloodhoof relationship from the moment Cairne arrives to Borean Tundra to take home the Horde after the defeat of the Lich King.

Cairne saw things that alerted him of how dangerous it was to let Garrosh loose with too much power.

Things get really bad when Thrall decides to appoint Garrosh as Warchief. However, a misunderstanding caused Cairne to call upon an orcish duel to strip Garrosh from his position. Garrosh in turn bluffs to force Cairne to retreat his challenge by asking the duel to be the old way: to the death.

Everyone wishing to learn how Cairne died would love to read it through the mind-eye of Christie Golden.

We see a very unusual alliance surfacing when Baine Bloodhoof seeks help to retake Thunder Bluff. One that really makes no sense unless we play the low level quests in Dustwallow Marsh.

Overall, World of Warcraft: The Shattering is one heck of a rollercoaster ride jam-packed with action on both sides: The Alliance and the Horde. Lot of emotional moments. Intrigue. Conspiracy. Betrayal. Love. Anger. Revenge. Uncertainty.

Most, if not all the characters, are characters that already exist in-game. That’s a nice touch.

It’s a must-have in your collection of Warcraft novels, and it does add to your knowlege of the game lore and quests by revealing to you how the status quo in the Cataclysm expansion came to be.

Once you read World of Warcraft: The Shattering, your feeling toward the Cataclysm will be widen up several notches, and you will hope the upcoming World of Warcraft: Thrall, Twilight of the Dragons is released soon enough to keep reading.

Christie Golden is a known World of Warcraft gamer, and she has helped build the lore and content that developers pour into the game.

Review: World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing Vol. 1, Dragons of Outland

TOKYOPOP Editor Troy Lewter sent my way an early copy of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING, in terms you can remember from an early interview of mine with Richard A. Knaak, it is the first volume of a trilogy titled DRAGONS OF OUTLAND, in which we learn the lore that led toward Malygos’s return to his senses from his milennia insanity and the Nexus War against the Kirin Tor and the Wyrmrest Accord.

The manga will be at a bookstore near you on June 1, 2010; but if you need a little jumpstart to get your engines going, I have written a lengthy article that mentions a few key moments of this story, without necessarily spoiling it too much. Just enough for you to get a grasp of what the first installment of this manga trilogy is about.

Without further ado, and minding a few spoilers here and there, feast my lore-hungered boys. Tip: Jorad Mace, Tyrigosa, the Nether Dragons, Deathwing and an original second war Death Knight on the loose in Outland.

If you loved the stories within Warcraft Legends, be prepared to get bewitched by World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing.

This manga trilogy is based on the two characters from the pages of WarCraft: The Sunwell Trilogy. The very same manga that spawned the likes of Kalecgos, and Anveena (known in-game at the Sunwell Plateau dungeon), Trag Highmountain (known in-game at the Argent Tournament Grounds in Icecrown) and Dar’Khan Darthir (found in-game at Deatholme in the Ghostlands, Quel’Thalas).

Like all of these characters who first were born in the TOKYOPOP manga, and appeared in-game time later during the Burning Crusade expansion, both protagonists of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING were born in THE SUNWELL TRILOGY and became quest NPCs in the Burning Crusade.

You can find both, Jorad Mace and Tyrigosa, at the Celestial Ridge in the region known as Netherstorm in Outland. To refresh your memory, Tyri (or Tyrigosa the blue dragon) gives you the quest to kill Veraku — the leader of the Nether Drakes in Netherstorm.

Her quests: A Promising Start, Securing the Celestial Ridge, and Troublesome Distractions. Ok, you got the idea. This manga gives you a prologue to their adventures in Outland, before those quests. How they got into Outland, and how they happen to learn about the Nether Drakes. That’s all in WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING.

The story by Richard A. Knaak is very fluid and packed with action in all fronts between the Burning Legion and the Alliance forces at the Dark Portal’s Stair of Destiny in Hellfire Peninsula, dragon against dragon, Gronn versus dragon, Ragnok’s forces against our heroes, and much more.

All brought to awesome detail by artist Jae-Hwan Kim: face expressions, body details, background details. The inker and texture makes this entire manga be a yummy sight. I’m not sure if the artist inked it, or Marco Paolilli, but it looks astounding. Jae-Hwam Kim’s art style and Richard A. Knaak’s writing are a perfect match for World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing. No wonder this manga took so long in the making.

Storywise, Jorad Mace comes to Outland with the Alliance forces to fend off the Burning Legion’s advancement into the Stair of Destiny in Hellfire Peninsula under the vigilance of Lord Irulon Trueblade of the Argent Crusade.

Jorad Mace continues his quest to make himself worthy and redeem his past transgressions against the former Silver Hand. The Light abandoned him long ago before the events of Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy, and he seeks to be worth of the return of the Light into his being.

On a separate quest, Tyrigossa has come into Outland hunting down a disturbance too familiar for her taste. She can’t pinpoint what it is, or how it relates to her hunches but she has come to seek it. It turns out to be the Nether Dragons. Are they friend or foe? Sadly both. Zzeraku sees her as a foe, but Valoku wishes to befriend the blue dragon.

“Wait hold it there, Medievaldragon — that name rings a bell.” — hah, I read your mind, eh? Yes, the same Zzeraku that became a prisoner of Lady Sinestra at Grim Batol in the novel World of Warcraft: Night of the Dragon by Richard A. Knaak. Except, we get to see the recent past before he was captured by her. Remember Dragons of Outlands was delayed for a few years before the release of the former.

We get to see an image of Deathwing as shown in the World of Warcraft: Cataclysm concept art when Tyrigosa senses the familiar magical signature in one of the black dragon skeletons found in the Nether Dragons’ lair in Blade’s Edge Mountains.

We see the interaction of Jorad Mace and Tyrigosa with the Draenei Broken tribe of Hellfire Peninsula as allies. The first encounter between the Alliance and the draenei of the Temple of Telhamat, and the introduction of Ragnok Bloodreaver — one of the original Death Knights created by Gul’dan, still in his decaying human host.

That bears some explaining for those who missed Warcraft II. During the final throes of the Second War, Warchief Orgrimm Doomhammer ordered the Horde to slay the Shadow Council. Only Gul’dan survived because he was catatonic after his mind-melding (so-to-speak) with Medivh at the moment of his death.

Gul’dan pleaded Orgrimm for his life, and offered an army of dead risen human knights holding magics to counter the Alliance’s mages. What Gul’dan didn’t tell Orgrimm was that these human corpses would be risen as hosts for the spirits of the slain Shadow Council — thus creating the original Death Knights, of which Teron Gorefiend was the first, and Ragnok Bloodreaver one of them.

It is wildly rumored by lore fans that this Ragnok might be the same mentioned in the novel World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal by Aaron Rosenberg and Christie Golden. So far, I can’t confirm if that’s true yet.

Ragnok Bloodreaver wishes to become the new master of Outland, and plans to conquer Azeroth as well. Obviously, he is not aligned with Illidan nor the Dragonmaw Clan. He seeks to destroy Illidan and all his forces in the Black Temple with the use of the Nether Dragons, employing the services of Kadavan, a mercenary Ethereal who uses his magical technology to hunt down and capture the behemoths. Ragnok is even assaulting the Dragonmaw Clan to steal the Nether Drakes controlled by them.

Ragnok has his own cadre of Fel Orcs, probably stolen from Hellfire Citadel’s surroundings and some of the Dragonmaw are threatened to be killed by the Death Knight if they disobey or fail his orders, following him unquestionably.

Comparing both MAGE and SHADOW WING, I feel more inclined for the latter. It’s well executed with a lot of action, mystery and drama. The pacing resembles much what some of us are accustomed with comic books from panel to panel interweaving plot after plot from different points of view.

I can’t wait for volume two to come out. Expect World of Warcraft: Shadow Wing Volume 2: The Nexus Point on November 2010. And the third part somewhere in 2011.

Don’t go thinking “Meh, this is a wannabe non-canon story” because you are wrong. Most of what Knaak writes is outlined to him by Blizzard Creative Team, and he fleshes out, then the developers add the story and characters into being in the MMO. It’s canon. The TOKYOPOP editor Troy Lewter, who sent me a copy of this manga a month before it goes into bookstores (on June 1) wrote an afterword located near the final pages of this manga.

There Paul Morrissey and Troy Lewter thank the people behind this story, including Richard A. Knaak, Jae-Hwan Kim, and the Blizzard Entertainment’s Creative Development Team: Jason Bischoff, Joshua Horst, James Waugh, Micky Neilson, Evelyn Fredericksen, Samwise Didier, Tommy Newcomer, Cameron Dayton and the thundergod, bourbon cowboy, father of Warcraft lore hmself — Chris Metzen. Did I miss any title? (chuckles) Ok. All-seeing and loved VP of Creative Design too, but that be the lesser of his titles before his loyal fanboys — myself included. He’s up there along with the legends: Stan Lee, H.P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien, Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, and many others loved by fans of Fantasy and Sci-fi genres. Ok. Enough boot-licking. Koff.

Get your copy of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING. You won’t regret collecting the trilogy. It looks very promising, and dare I say rival previous WarCraft manga in lore and awe.

This is the missing story that gaps World of Warcraft: Night of the Dragon and the Nexus War. From this trilogy comes the truth behind Malygos’ cure and decision to start an all-out war against the Kirin Tor and the Wrymrest Accord.

And from the picture of Deathwing as seen in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm’s concept art, dare I say we will learn more than we could possibly guess as a tie-in with the upcoming expansion? You bet.

Check out the preview images of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING.

Don’t forget to participate in our Blizzplanet giveaway of this manga and the giveaway at Wow.incgamers

EXTRAS

The first volume of the manga takes us to Hellfire Peninsula, Dragonmaw areas in Shadowmoon Valley, and Blade’s Edge Mountains.

Lord Irulon Trueblade – is one of the characters who led the incursion into Outland to fend off the demons from accessing Azeroth during the Burning Crusade in this manga. You can find him in the Howling Fjord at Valgarde currently in Wrath of the Lich King.

Lord Trueblade oversaw Jorad Mace’s progress to redemption, but initially gave him more humbling tasks to do such as helping with the construction of their outpost.

Amaan the Wise – from the Temple of Telhamat in Hellfire Peninsula appears in the manga with a convoy of Draenei to introduce his people to Lord Duron, Commander of the Alliance Forces at the Stair of Destiny in the Dark Portal, Hellfire Peninsula.

The Broken – (Krokul in draenei old tongue)

Warrith – leader of the Broken in Hellfire Peninsula, and father of Valwar.

There is reference to how Gruul and the Gronn killed the black dragons at Blade’s Edge Mountains as revealed in World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal.

Some of the creatures we see in the manga are:

Gronn
Wrathbringer
Shivan (six-armed demoness)
Felguard
Nether Rays

World of WarCraft: Shaman Preview

After reading World of Warcraft: Mage (read my review, I discovered an interview held by Tokyopop editors with Paul Benjamin in the last pages.

The interview is about his upcoming manga titled World of Warcraft: Shaman.

I am going to post that interview in this article, but before that I just want to kick the Beehive to shake lore fans and fill them with interest. Check it out on October 2010 folks, because that’s when you will learn more about that mysterious character revealed in the pages of White Wolf’s World of Warcraft RPG: Dark FactionsHigh Shaman Muln Earthfury, leader of the Earthen Ring.

Description

Earthquakes. Fires. Floods. Tornados. The elements of Azeroth are out of control, unleashing devastating natural disasters that threaten to tear Azeroth asunder.

All hope rests with the shaman, who are able to commune with the elements. Muln Earthfury, the shaman leader of the secretive Earthen Ring, attempts to pacify the elements — but his pleas fall on deaf ears. The elements are unresponsive, full of confusion and chaos. The Earthen Ring is riddled with doubt. Have the shaman lost their ability to corral and guide the elements?

Mysteriously, Shotoa arrives. This Tauren shaman doesn’t just merely tend to the elements — he forces them to do his bidding. Shotoa promises to lead the Earthen Ring into a new era of Shamanism … As the world crumbles around them, Muln and the Earthen Ring must decide if Shotoa is a hero or a heretic …

Written by Paul Benjamin (StarCraft: Frontline) and drawn by Roccio Zucchi (World of Warcraft: Death Knight), WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHAMAN ties into the upcoming World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion in stunning ways!

Available October 2010.

Interview

Is it safe to assume that you’ve played a fair amount of WARCRAFT? Do you have a favorite class to play?

Benjamin: My main is a pally retadin. That’s a paladin built to do lots of damage for any noobs reading this (Hi, Mom!). I tend to do a fair amount of solo play because if I play with a group I’m on for too long and wouldn’t make any of my Warcraft writing deadlines! The pally is great for soloing because I can heal myself and do plenty of damage. That said, I do have a lot of fun playing with guildies or doing random heroics when I’ve got the time. ANd, of course, since writing SHAMAN I’ve really been digging my new shammy character as well.

Give the fans the inside scoop on WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHAMAN. What’s the story about? Is it true that it will tie into the upcoming CATACLYSM expansion?

Benjamin: SHAMAN is the tale of a group many players have seen around Azeroth and beyond: the Earthen Ring. The main characters are Muln, the tauren High Shaman of the Earthen Ring, and his orc apprentice, Kettara Bloodthirst. The focus is on them and the elder council of the Earthen Ring, so I’ve gotten to write dranei and trolls as well as a few very important (and well known) orcs from Orgrimmar. The secrets of CATACLYSM are quite closely guarded at the time of this writting, but there’s a lot of connection between this book and the upcoming expansion. I can tell you that the elements are in upheaval adn that’s wreaking chaos with the powers of Muln and the Earthen Ring.

SHAMAN is a story about tradition versus change and choosing which one is more important. It’s also full of shaman calling down lightning, summoning elementals and manifesting totems to help them smack down any monsters stupid enough to threaten the shaman way of life. And it’s all beautifully illustrated by DEATH KNIGHT artist Roccio Zucchi, so I imagine fans will be as excited to read the book as I have been to see those pages coming in as she works!

World of Warcraft: Mage Review

Richard A. Knaak receives a lot of good feedback, which translates in the success and sale of World of Warcraft and Diablo novels, and some bad feedback from the minority.

WarCraft: MageI don’t mean to offend those with bad feedback, I have read and understand their concerns, but sales would be low otherwise if everyone or the majority thought likewise.

The way I see it, there is room for every type of writer, and each has their own technique and style. There’s room for everyone. And Richard A. Knaak has a tall condo, not just a room.

The artwork by Ryo Kawakami is not very detailed when it comes to backgrounds, like Jae-Hwan Kim or my favorite, Hector Sevilla; but Troy Lewter — the editor — does mention in the back of the manga that they were on a deadline, and the artist was pretty swift in making things happen within that deadline. So, let’s be forgiving, and see other work of Ryo.

I either like a style or dislike it. I like the artwork in World of Warcraft: Mage. Some people may think otherwise.

There’s a difference between manga and comic books, and while I am new to the manga world, I welcome the style.

I have always said I am not really into manga, but there are many styles and I do dig my first incursion into reading manga: Starcraft: Frontline, Warcraft Legends, and World of Warcraft: Death Knight are pretty cool art-wise.

I am more a comic book reader having a large collection of all kind of X-men titles, and some Avengers and West Coast Avengers. I also check out the latest previews of all kind of Marvel Comics titles (not just X-men) at Newsarama.

There’s a lot of new artists with great styles, but from my early incursions into comic books back in 1996, I like Joe Madureira, Ian Churchill, Chris Bachalo, Alex Ross, and others. Their styles are very different from one another.

If anything, I welcome different styles, and open-minded to taste other people’s work — in both fields actually: writers and artists.

I do hate some artists’s styles more than others, nevertheless, but rarely. Coughs-José Ladrönn. Sorry dude, you ruined it for me in CABLE.

Decade-old-rant aside, I read an advance review copy of World of WarCraft: Mage, thanks to Troy Lewter [TOKYOPOP editor].

The very-short description of the book released last April 2, and its front cover could barely offer fans any grasp at info to form a guess.

Reading the manga, I am surprised at how Knaak weaved the story behind the Nexus War’s assault on Dalaran.

We see how the Azure Ley Dragon Cyanigosa, dragonkin and drakonids got access into the Violet Hold, bypassing and weakening Dalaran’s outer magical-shield.

It all came from within. From the cover, you might think Rhonin and this mysterious kid Aodhan work together all along from beginning to end of the story, but that’s clearly not true for most of the first half of the manga.

Aodhan is a reckless kid who tries hard to demonstrate his abilities, who wishes to prove worthy to his father and to himself by one day becoming part of Dalaran’s defenses.

He is taught by Master Simeon, a Dalaran mage trainer, who keeps Aodhan pressed to the limit because he considers the kid needs to learn to be patient and focused before leveling up in rank even when he surpasses any other student in skill for those at the same level. The kid simply rushes recklessly without measuring the possible consequences.

There is a bit of lore thrown in into the mix about the Book of Argaleus the Crafter who lived centuries ago. Myth says he learned the spell language written on this special book from Malygos. Among the marks on the book can be seen the All-seeing Eye of the Kirin Tor.

The opening of rifts within the Violet Hold was not the first attempt. It had been breached before, with help of Aothan and his uncle Crevan. This explains why some of the cells in the Violet Hold prison are empty. Some of the lesser beings such as a fire revenant, ogre magi, and a void terror (like Immol’thar in Dire Maul west) were locked within, and freed to cause a distraction from the true target that would destroy Dalaran.

We get to see Archmage Modera, Rhonin and Archmage Aethas Sunreaver in action fending off the Azure Ley dragons from bypassing the outer shield of Dalaran, but no real background or lore about these three Kirin Tor council members.

The story focuses on Aodhan the mage apprentice, his attunement to magic which promises to see him one day as a powerful mage.

Richard A. Knaak shifts his story-telling back and forth between the present to the past to explore the origins of Aodhan, his family, and his motives to become a great mage.

However, we learn the true meaning of being a mage is not about controlling magic, but to humbly learn to wield magic for the benefit of everyone, not oneself.

World of Warcraft: Mage contains an interview about World of Warcraft: Shaman — revealed to be written by Paul Benjamin and art by Roccio Zucchi.

It also contains a preview of WORLD OF WARCRAFT: SHADOW WING, VOL. 1: THE DRAGONS OF OUTLAND. The same exclusive preview TOKYOPOP and Blizzard granted Blizzplanet a few weeks ago.

Check out our recently-released exclusive preview of World of Warcraft: Mage.

Don’t forget to participate on our giveaway of World of Warcraft: Mage while it lasts.

World of Warcraft: Mage hits bookstores on June 1, 2010. Pre-order it here.

StarCraft: Heaven’s Devils Preview Video

Starcraft: Heaven’s Devils by William C. Dietz will be on sale April 6, 2010 — but I got an early copy some time ago to show you a preview. This is the first StarCraft novel published as a Hardcover. The artwork in the front cover shows Jim Raynor on his Marine suit. You can see the visor matches that of the Jim Raynor Noobz given away at last BlizzCon 2009′s swag bag.

The book comes with a detachable dustjacket which contains the front cover’s artwork. All the latest Warcraft hardcovers from Gallery Books (a division of Simon & Schuster) and even DC Comics’ Starcraft Hardcover come with a dustjacket design. The one thing I love about that is that it gives you the option to frame the dustjacket as your own piece of art — pretty good for those who wish to collect them, and hang the frames on the Office or bedroom’s wall. Those wondering, the artwork on the dustjacket was drawn by Glenn Rane. The dustjacket was designed by Alan Dingman.

When you open the book, you can see the flaps of the dustjacket wrapped around the Hardcover. On the left flap is a short excerpt of the novel, and on the other side is the photo of William C. Dietz and his bios. The first and last page have the Heaven’s Devils insignia

In the StarCraft: Heaven’s Devils‘s interior you can find four full-color artworks by the Starcraft II Art Team. The first artwork shows the Heaven’s Devils squad led by Jim Raynor. This is the photo that you will be able to view in-game in the Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty single-player at the Joe Ray’s Bar in Mar Sara, after Tychus Findlay enters the Bar. The photo can be found at the interactive bulletin board.

The second image is the Fight for Freedom poster featuring Jim Raynor in his Marine suit, which has the Raynor’s Raiders insignia on the right shoulder. We saw both posters at the computer room during our visit to the Blizzard’s studios in Irvine.

The third artwork describes a scene within the novel’s story where Kydd, Harnack and Jim Raynor flee a local police car aboard Jim Raynor’s Vulture hovercraft. The final artwork shows Jim Raynor on his Marine suit and Tychus Findlay back in the old days.

The four artwork samples were illustrated by Wei Wang, Steve Hui, and Luke Mancini from Blizzard Entertainment.

One thing that caught my eye and that truly makes me love this novel is its StarCraft Timeline in the back. It spans 13 pages in length, not only telling you what happened since the 16th Century, but also showing you book references. Every single StarCraft book since 2001 is referenced in the StarCraft Timeline, in case you wish to buy that book from a local or online bookstore.

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Starcraft Hardcover Vol. 1 Preview

DC Comics recently sent me a copy of the Starcraft Hardcover Vol. 1 which compiles issue # 1-7. This product will be available on sale this upcoming April 13, 2010 for those who missed the comic book ongoing series.

Although the ongoing series has been canceled with issue # 7, Wildstorm recently announced they will change format to Graphic Novel. There is no ETA yet when, but we will keep you updated when anything new gets announced.

In the meantime, here you have a video of the unpacking of the Starcraft Hardcover, and what’s inside as a sneak peek for those who might be interested in purchasing the trade paperback in hardcover format. The street price is $19.99, but some bookstores online have it priced for $13.49.

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JINX WoW St. Valentine’s Kwee Q. Peedlefeet T-Shirt

J!NX has a new San Valentine’s Day or “Love is in the Air” T-shirt on sale! It is the Kwee Q. Peedlefeet T-Shirt for World of Warcraft players. Cute gift for a girlfriend, and friends.

Use the code: ZOMBIELOVE at check out to get a 20% discount on any purchase greater than $40 or more. Valid until 02/14/2010. Not valid with any other offer.

Starcraft # 7 Review

As reported a few weeks ago, Wildstorm and DC Comics announced the subscriptions of the Starcraft and World of Warcraft comic books were cancelled. This in response to a new agreement between Wildstorm and Blizzard Entertainment to make a move into the Graphic Novel format.

While you no longer get your monthly fix, this new format allows better storytelling with more pages, less rushed plots with cliffhangers in mind at the end of each issue and a more streamlined story. The other benefit is these graphic novels come out as hardcover.

Subscribers of the Starcraft comic book received this week their last shipment with issue # 7.

It ended with the death of one of the War Pigs, and a few twists in the story.

The interaction between character’s dialogues looked good-good as you can always expect from Simon Furman (TRANSFORMERS). The artwork by MIke S. Miller was among the best I have seen in the short-lived series. The coloring by Carrie Strachan makes Mike’s artwork justice. Lot of pastel colors and interesting hues.

A few months ago, I asked Chris Metzen during our single-player hands-on interview if the War Pigs would appear in Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. While they aren’t planned for the first episode, he didn’t rule them out of upcoming episodes.
It was a tricky question, mind you, scratching into spoiler. My theory was that while the War Pigs were hired by the Terran Dominion to kill Jim Raynor, somehow we would see what happened with General Duke. In the throes of Zerg threatening their lives against a wall, the War Pigs would join Jim Raynor if he came to the rescue.

It’s been six months since the interview with Chris Metzen. While my prediction was not accurate, the result was the same.

The War Pigs end up smooch-smooch with the man they were hired to kill. The part I got wrong was that Raynor didn’t rescue them from the Zerg. Basically they were all in a predicament, and out of survival instinct they worked together.

That, and it turned out that the leader of the War Pigs — Cole Hickson — was formerly a friend of Jim Raynor before he was resocialized. They had saved each other at different times during the Guild Wars, years ago. The twist was he was resocialized with an experimental procedure, and he was implanted a memory that would be triggered upon meeting Jim Raynor: Kill Jim Raynor.

Cole pullled a gun on Jim Raynor, point blank, and fought his programming eventually losing consciousness.

That’s how issue # 6 ended. Issue # 7 kicks off with a flashback where we learn more about the War Pig member Romy Pyrius.

The short story takes us back to year 2483 in New Gettysburg, Tarsonis. Romy Pyrus, the War Pig medic, was formerly a pharmaceutical entrepeneur who sold controlled drugs in the streets of Tarsonis. By night, he was a mercenary taking jobs from the Confederates to assassinate V.I.P. people that stepped on their nerves.

During one of those mercenary gigs, Pyrus compromised the mission with a side drug gig. His whole team was captured and used as guinea pigs. Pyrus sold his team for his freedom, and continued his drug dealings.

It’s pretty nice to see some continuity between the Starcraft: Ghost pocket book, the Starcraft: Ghost Academy manga and the Starcraft comic book even with these smaller details. The drugs mentioned are Hab, Turk, Snoke and Bog.

In the present, 2502 at Urona Sigma, Jim Raynor and the War Pigs face oblivion watching into the horizon how the Protoss Carriers incinerate the world like they did with Mar Sara. It’s armageddon time for all of them with no way out. Jim Raynor extends his arms and simply awaits the end of the world as wave after wave of giant lasers incinerate the surface around them.

While the dialogue between the War Pigs and Jim Raynor is full of sarcasm and fun moments, I can’t but feel a bit disappointed. There was no Protoss coming down to rescue Jim Raynor. No telepathic contact. No beaming up aboard a Protoss Carrier. No. That’s not how Jim Raynor saved his arse from this one.

The only reason he survives is because Commander Lars Trakken had a score to settle with Cole Hickson, and no Protoss incineration would strip him from the pleasure of telling in Cole’s face all he endured after he stole his life years ago; and to pull the trigger on him. So, to make a story short Trakken bought Raynor and the War Pigs the ticket out of Urona Sigma before becoming War Pigs umm B.B.Q. (pun intended). A too convenient mechanic plot, but oh well.

At the end, Raynor and the War Pigs part ways. Looks like the upcoming Starcraft Graphic Novel will focus on some dispensing indiscriminate justice on the man that hired them to do the deed: Tamsen Cauley. Will the War Pigs survive? Will they join Jim Raynor and his Raynor’s Raiders? We might have to wait for the Graphic Novel to find out.

Will the War Pigs show up as mercenaries in Starcraft II: Hear of the Swarm or Legacy of the Void? That can probably be a safe bet considering Metzen’s interview.

World of Warcraft Diorama Review: Blood Elf Rogue vs Draenei Paladin

Sideshow Collectibles and Blizzard Entertainment partnered on 2007 to launch the epic first World of Warcraft diorama based on the Burning Crusade expansion. This polystone diorama of a Blood Elf Rogue versus a Draenei Paladin was sculptured to perfection from an artwork created by Blizzard Entertainment Art Department. The sculptor really put a lot of work into each part of the diorama: the draenei and blood elf’s shoulders, gauntlets and legs are amazingly detailed.

The lengthy video shows you the box as it was delivered by UPS (with dent and all), I unpacked it and show all the foam it’s protected with, and step-by-step how to assemble this diorama.

It’s actually composed of five pieces that need to be manually assembled by yourself: the base is pretty solid heavy (handle with care); the draenei; the draenei’s right arm is a separate item which includes the right-arm, shield, and the whole blood elf (all in one piece); the Tome is a separate item, and the mace.

The whole process of unpacking and assembling the diorama takes approximately 15-20 minutes. It’s heavily protected by an exoskeleton of foam in the shape of a box split in half. The different components are secured individually and firmly with wires. Untying these wires is what takes the most of your time.

It’s recommended to remove the diorama parts on a table and with a lot of care, and if possible bring a few folded towels to cushion the parts when the foam is turned upside down while you untie the wires. If a piece comes loose abruptly it can literally break a piece. I say so by experience. The Blood Elf came loose on top of the solid base and the green blade on her left hand broke off to my shame. That’s my fault.

It would be wise to have a couple of tweezers handy when assembling the tome (book) to the draenei paladin. These chains are short and cut to fit what’s necessary — meaning you will take a while trying to place the hooks inside the tome’s rings. The tome has a pin to insert it into the draenei’s waist beneath the belt where you can find a hole.

Once the tome is secured in place, you can take the big piece where the blood elf is laying on the shield and hook the slot inside the draenei’s arm into the pin located where the elbow joint is. The force of gravity does its job as the weight of this big piece settles on the Draenei’s elbow pin. One thing I gotta complain is there is no way to secure these five pieces. It only takes a curious family, friend or child to grab the diorama to realize it’s a loose set of pieces instead of a solid statue. The only solution I can really think of is to permanently glue these parts with Krazy-glue; but at your own risk.

Overall, this is a sculpture that is going to wow you and everyone who sees it. You can look at it for long periods of time, browsing through all the detail, and awesomeness. If you can spare the $299.99, go for it. It’s numbered in the bottom of the base, and there are approximately 750 of them around the world. A collector’s choice. This diorama was provided and shipped to me for review purposes by Sideshow Collectibles.

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