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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Comic Review: The Hand of Vaprak! - Issues #1-4 of the Forgotten Realms Comic

 While I am on a quest to read all novels, anthologies, and separate short stories set in the Forgotten Realms, I am not much of a comic book person. The last time I read one I was in elementary school. I was interested in a few of the series set in the Forgotten Realms however, and I will review some of the story arcs here to go with my normal reviews. I will not be giving a rating for the whole arc, since I'm too unused to comics. This will be full of spoilers as I feel the continuity between each issue makes sense with more detail.

Issues one though four of the Forgotten Realms Comic were published by DC Comics from August to November 1989. These first four issues are the first story arc for the series: The Hand of Vaprak! The story is by Jeff Grubb and the illustrations by Rags Morales. I was mostly interested because Grubb was in charge of the Forgotten Realms at TSR at the time, and wrote (along with his wife) the books in The Finder's Stone trilogy, and some of those characters from the books actually appear in the comics.

The Ogre's Paw is the fist volume for the comic series, and the first issue for The Hand of Vaprak! We meet Priam Agrivar a paladin and recovering drunk on the Sword Coast. In an odd turn of a swimming session he finds a satchel with some money from Lantan and a giant hand with evil, magical properties.

Then to the Halruaan ship, the Realms Master, captained by Dwalimar Omen. On board is the golem Minder, the halfling Foxilon Cardluck, and Ishi Barasume of Kozakura.

There was a dialogue of Espruar (elvish), though looking at it was just a transliteration of an English phrase that was given as the translation. Though a few pages later we have a couple words for a magical incantation that do not have translations. If you put it into our alphabet you get "spiritual" and "hammer" which makes sense with the spell that is cast.

Vartan Hai Sylivar, gold elf cleric of Labelas Enoreth from Evereska is recused from some gnolls who were going to sacrifice him to Yeenoghu, the demon lord worshiped by gnolls. Aside, this "hai" seems to be followed by a racial designation; Sylvar almost certainly refers to his elven blood, just as Mistinarperadnacles Hai Draco is a dragon.

At the end we are introduced to a villain and his minion doppelgänger seeking the hand of the troll and ogre god, Vaprak.

Converging Lines is the second part of the arc. The story starts with Elminster's assitant getting a notification that the Hand of Vaprak is loose and we quickly cut to Priam and Vartan in Baldur's Gate where they meet the crew of the Realms Master. A game of keep-away, of sorts, takes place, with the hand eventually falling into enemy hands by trickery.

Meanwhile, Alias of Westgate and Dragonbait are summoned to Elminster in Shadowdale since other parties were otherwise preoccupied. If you recognize those two chracters, this is between Azure Bonds and Song of the Saurials. We end with these two as we learn an interesting bit of lore that contradicts the folkloric origin of the Hand of Vaprak explained earlier in the issue.

The Great Game is issue 3 and continues with the party in Baldur's Gate. They go to confront the enemy who is disguised as Gondal of Baldur's Gate. The dungeon/mansion is fun full of magic, undead, and magical creatures. I don't want to get into too much detail, but this is the low point before the baddies are defeated in the final issue for the arc. The setup for part 4 is done well.

Fools Rush In starts off beautifully, giving us the sad reality of the ensuing battle that started in part 3. In this explosive conclusion against the evil oni, we learn more about the origins of the Hand of Vaprak. This was a fun tale, and I'm interested in what direction the next arc, The Dragonreach Saga, will go for our heros.

At the end of The Hand of Vaprak! I still prefer novelizations, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the way comics tell stories. I don't feel very qualified to judge, but I did enjoy the art, though it does seem like it's from the 80s. Just as I enjoy movies, books, ttrpg's, I think each form gives us something different that we can all enjoy. I do not plan on reading any comic books outside of the Realms, but I do plan on reading more inside. 

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