I had the opportunity to read World of Warcraft: Dark Riders courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment (Thanks, Lyndsi). I had waited so long to get this Blizzard licensed product on my hands. The first time fans heard about World of Warcraft: Dark Riders was at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con. Chris Metzen, Christie Golden, and Hank Kanalz (DC Comics) showcased several upcoming products at the Warcraft, StarCraft & Diablo Swag Show Panel held there.
It’s been a while since the launch of the original World of Warcraft ongoing comics series. The series, formerly published by Wildstorm, ended with issue # 25. The main characters seen in Dark Riders were originally introduced in the World of Warcraft Special # 1 (Dec 16, 2009). Through advanced solicitations, it was known that two new titles based on the Horde and the Alliance would be launched shortly after the World of Warcraft Special # 1. However those titles never came to see the light.
On December 16th 2009, DC Entertainment announced through IGN the World of Warcraft comics had been cancelled, as well as the already-announced Horde and Alliance titles. From that moment forward, DC Entertainment was to publish graphic novels based on World of Warcraft.
Fast forwarding into the present, the Alliance graphic novel is World of Warcraft: Dark Riders. It is on sale as of May 10th. The Horde graphic novel World of Warcraft: Bloodsworn will be available on August 13, but pre-orders are available.
The front cover by Alex Horley and Samwise Didier (Blizzard senior art director) looks awesome in glossy paper. It’s actually a book-jacket wrapped around the book. No one will blame you if you wish to frame it. The artwork has canvas texture, or gives the impression it was painted on one.
The interior artwork by Neil Googe looks different to what we have seen so far in the World of Warcraft ongoing comics, The Ashbringer, or even Curse of the Worgen.
The landscapes look very detailed and true to the game’s locations. Some of the areas explored in this story are:
- Goldshire (Elwynn Forest)
- Tower of Azora
- Gold Coast Quarry
- Mannor Mismantle (Duskwood)
- Tranqui Gardens (Duskwood)
- Roland’s Doom
- Raven Hill
- The Opera Hall (Karazhan)
- The Menagerie (Karazhan)
I have a complaint, but that’s just me. The armor of these Alliance heroes looks too simple. More work is needed to make the printed media and the game mesh further. I would have liked to see a really cool armor set for each class, and make the same set of the characters available to players in-game in the challenge mode rewards (for example).
The story begins in Goldshire where the two main characters make screen time. Mardigan is a young and reckless man sent by his father, Mage Karlain, to the Lion’s Pride Inn to get a potion from an old friend alchemist.
Readers quickly find out about several groups revolving around the core of the story: the Wolf Cult from Darkshire, The Defias Brotherhood in Westfall, and the Dark Riders of Karazhan.
In the Tower of Azora, Theocritus summons the aid of Mage Karlain. The Dark Riders have been stealing artifacts of power throughout the region. Theotricus sent the Hand of Azora artifact to Westfall, in hopes of preventing its theft, and sends Karlain there to make sure it stays secure.
The third character of the team of heroes is introduced in the midst of The People’s Militia in Sentinel Hill. A priest unlike any we have ever seen with a nasty attitude — wait, is there one of any other kind?
The story has a nice pace moving from one place to the next, giving the reader a taste of what’s going on. Each character has his own motivation, but their paths are interwoven. All paths leading to the Dark Riders and the artifacts they have stolen.
I am usually positive in my reviews, but I try the best for my fanboyism not to cloud my judgement. The title is World of Warcraft: Dark Riders. However, at the end of my read I was left with disappointment. Their origin is explained by Brink, but I don’t know who were behind the masks, or who their new master in the present is, or what the goal to hoard these artifacts is.
We do learn these Dark Riders are not related to The Lich King’s Scourge, nor related to Gul’dan and his Shadow Council. Their origin goes way back to the era where Medivh was still possessed by Sargeras. However, none of that explains who the current master of the Dark Riders is. It would have made sense for this graphic novel if the Dark Riders were serving Prince Malchezzar and the artifacts were meant for a ritual to resurrect Sargeras (for example).
Other than Karlain, very scarce information is provided about each member of this team. I don’t know where the priest came from, or what organization Brink works for. Considering he is a rogue and knows so much intel, I’d guess his organization is Ravenholdt or SI:7.
There were so many loose ends in this graphic novel, I can’t but wonder if Blizzard Entertainment intends these characters to appear in an upcoming novel, website short stories (like Project Blackstone), or even wrap up these loose ends in the next expansion. Looks like cliffhangers set there on purpose.
The Scythe of Elune was in the hands of the Wolf cult. The graphic novel doesn’t really reveal much about the Wolf cult. We know the Wolf cult deserter in Goldshire had seen something among the Wolf Cult that made him flee. I keep trying to understand what this might be that scared him, but I have no answer.
We need megalomaniac villains with long speeches to understand their motives. Kinda too cookie-cutter, but better than the scene where we see Gervase with the Scythe of Elune uttering not a single word.
I have a lot of expectations, and love when those are exceeded with a great story. Especially the great stories that the Dark Riders, the Scythe of Elune and the Worgen are deserved to be fleshed out more in this graphic novel.
The World of Warcraft: Ashbringer and the Curse of the Worgen are among the top World of Warcraft comics stories I have read. Those are favorites for many fans, not just me. This graphic novel should have exceeded the previous in terms of lore. Lot of stuff we didn’t know about Mograine and what transpired in Gilneas while players accomplished missions can be learned in those two independent stories.
That’s the rough part of the review. Now let’s go into the good stuff. This team of adventurers is a wreak. They aren’t friendly with each other, but they learn they need each other if they are to survive the many foes standing between them and their goal to retrieve the stolen artifacts.
With a team like this, the author Mike Costa no doubt had a lot of fun writing their dialogues which include tones of comedy, irreverence, and gray personalities. None is truly evil, but not completely good-hearted.
Mardigan is reckless and easy to be angered if provoked. He doesn’t need to be provoked, though. He picks on people he feels might be bothersome or staring. He’s young with the heart of a fighter, and headstrong.
Karlain is headstrong and rushes in without care. Like father, like son. The mage is too confident, self-absorbed and arrogant. A secret he’s kept from his son boils at his core.
Revil is the most annoying priest I have ever seen in any printed media. One might wonder if even the Scarlet Crusade would abhor his zealotry of the Light. Revil’s family was killed by the Wolf Cult. This event darkened his beliefs to a degree where he justifies the misfortune of people around him as something the Light approves to happen. An example is a couple of soldiers in Westfall fighting for a piece of bread. One stabs the other. Mage Karlain asks Revil to heal the wounded man, but instead he walks away saying his is not a mortal wound, and the pain will serve as penance for his selfishness. Revil is truly an A-hole. I love him.
Brink is an enigmatic gnome rogue. He knows a lot of intel about who the Dark Riders are, and even about the Wolf Cult. He even has deep knowledge about dragons. He’s a box of surprises, and no doubt I might want to hear more of him in the future. But please, open the box so we can learn a bit more. Deal?
This team really needed a dwarf hunter, and a Night Elf druid. From what Brink says at the end of the story, he will meet a night elf. I am uncertain of what the timeframe of this story is in relation to the present and other events. I assume Curse of the Worgen happens after Dark Riders based on what happens at the end, but it’s hard to be certain.
Regardless, while the graphic novel didn’t fill all of my expectations, the dynamic between the characters, their grey personalities and humor makes this graphic novel a good read. If you think this is a graphic novel for kids, think again. Lot of beheading, cleaving of arms and gore.
A toast to seeing these characters again pop in upcoming novels, limited series or website short stories. I’m looking forward for the World of Warcraft: Bloodsworn graphic novel (Horde version) and more stories. My mind hungers for more Warcraft lore and action.
I rarely rate my reviews, because numbers can’t really capture my opinion. An 8.5 only tells you I didn’t find it to be perfect. There was much more the story should have revealed and focused on. On the other hand, it was a fun read and I crave to hear more about these heroes.
Get your copy of World of Warcraft: Dark Riders. PC/Mac users can read this graphic novel on Firefox or Internet Explorer by choosing the Kindle link, then ordering the Kindle Cloud Reader version. Do you have an iPad, Android tablet or Kindle? This graphic novel is available for those devices too.
A brand-new original graphic novel featuring characters from the bestselling video game franchise, World of Warcraft!
A stalwart mage searches for a powerful artifact, stolen by dark riders, only to find his son accused of murder. A righteous priest, driven by a mysterious fervor, investigates a savage Wolf Cult. As the paths of these two men join, a fantastic adventure emerges! Supported by a cast of brave heroes, the two find out just how dangerous the wolf cult and dark riders are.
Justice, Courage, and Faith: These are the pillars of the Alliance. The faction, forged in the aftermath of a brutal and bloody war, has always sought to bring light to the dark corners of the world. Every day, scores of Alliance members travel far across Azeroth, fighting for good under the faction’s banner.
Yet other heroes, like the brilliant mage Karlain, begin their battles much closer to home. When his hot-tempered son disappears after being accused of murder, Karlain embarks on a journey that will take him from the dark and misty thickets of Duskwood to the haunted tower of Karazhan. Alongside Revil, an overzealous priest haunted by the past, the pragmatic mage works to uncover a mysterious connection between his missing son and a shadowy organization known as the Wolf Cult. What Karlain and his comrade discover will put their strength and resolve to the ultimate test.
To complicate matters, the two men are harried by the Dark Riders, enigmatic bandits who prowl Duskwood and other regions in search of rare artifacts. Only through tolerance and patience can Karlain and Revil restore order to their world… and to their own lives.
Further Reading: References
The final pages of “Dark Riders” has a section devoted to pinpoint where characters or topics mentioned in the graphic novel can be traced back in printed media or in-game continuity.
A glimpse into the lives of Karlain, Mardigan, Revil, and Brink before the events of this graphic novel can be found in World of Warcraft Special # 1 by Mike Costa and Pop Mhan (It is reprinted in World of Warcraft vol. 4 and also available in digital format for the PC/Mac and tablets).
The origins of the worgen have long been one of Azeroth’s great mysteries. Details about these savage beasts and the mysterious artifact that created them are offered in World of Warcraft: Wolfheart by Richard A. Knaak; World of Warcraft: Curse of the Worgen by Micky Neilson, James Waugh and Ludo Lullabi; and the short story “Lord of His Pack” by James Waugh (available on the WoW website). Both Curse of the Worgen and Wolfheart are available in paperback, digital book and audiobook formats. Follow the links.
Apart from the Dark Riders, other legends abound concerning Karazhan and the infamous Medivh, former Guardian of Tirisfal. More information about the haunted tower and its prior master is revealed in Warcraft: The Last Guardian by Jeff Grubb (of Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms and Magic: The Gathering fame). Warcraft: The Last Guardian was reprinted in a volume containing several Warcraft novels. You should order the WarCraft Archive.
Marshal Dughan, the stalwart defender of Elwynn Forest, makes an appearance in World of Warcraft: Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak, when he succumbs to the dreaded Emerald Nightmare. The book is available in paperback, digital book and audiobook formats.
Mardigan – Karlain’s son
Revil Kost (Priest)
Theocritus (Tower of Azora)
Commander Althea Ebonlocke
Gervase (Wolf cult)
Shagra (Wolf cult)
Brink (Gnome rogue)
Aredhel (Karlain’s deceased wife seen in a vision of the past in Karazhan)
Medivh the Last Guardian
The Defias Brotherhood (Westfall)
Wolf Cult (Darkshire)
The People’s Militia (Sentinel’s Hill, Westfall)
Guard of the Watch (Darkshire, Duskwood)
The Hand of Azora
The Scythe of Elune
The Cloak of Purity
The writer of “Dark Riders” is Mike Costa. He is written The Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor (Wildstorm, 2008), G.I. Joe (2008), Transformers: All Hail Megatron (2008), Resistance (2009), Transformers: Ironhide (2010) Hack/Slash (2011), Blackhawks (2011) — to name a few.
Neil Googe is the artist behind each “Dark Riders” panel. He is penciled for several comics since 1997. Shotgun Mary: blood Lore, Judge Dredd, X-men Unlimited # 41, Majestic, Wildcats: World’s End and more.
Colorists: Pierre Matterne, Lee Loughridge & Len O’Grady.
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Story Consultants: Chris Metzen & Alex Afrasiabi, Luis Barriga & Micky Neilson.
Cover: Alex Horley & Samwise Didier