Jul 3, 2009

Dragonlance Comics (Issue 20) - A Winter's Knight Concludes

A Winter's Knight

Winter's Night part 4This issue starts off with Riva, Darial, and Shaya meeting with Palin Majere at the Castle of the Dawn. She delivers the secret to the draconians undoing (as revealed last issue), which turns out to be a magic scroll created by Takhisis. It was created in case the draconians became too power to keep under control.

Palin casts the spell, which summons all draconians within a 200 mile area to travel to this location. The closer they get, the weaker they get, making them easy to defeat. This should effectively end their control on the area.

Afterward, Riva talks about another great victory that happened here, Wistan Dawnbringer's final battle with the black robed wizard Ravenna...

Wistan's tale picks up with him and two knights, Collum and Hagen, heading toward Ravenna's base over snow covered lands. Along the way they are confronted by a group of thanoi (commonly called walrus men). While the thanoi are usually in the coldest climates, the three year winter has made these lands ideal for them.

During the fight, Collum is killed by one of the creatures, while Hagen and Wistan defeat the others. The remaining two knights set off for the wizard in the middle of the storm.

Some time later, after the storm has passed and the two knights are nearing the Castle of Dawn, they encounter another of Ravenna's guards; a frost giant in this case.

As the giant attacks, the two knights split up with Wistan heading for cover while Hagen draws the lumbering hulk onto a nearby frozen lake. Hagen narrowly avoids the giant's battle axe, causing the weapon to crack into the ice sheet it was standing. The crack, and the giants massive weight break the ice causing it to fall into the frozen depth. As it's last act, the giant grabs Hagen dragging the down to the same watery grave.

Wistan cries out for his friend, but is too far away to help.

As Riva tells her story, Shaya is saddened that so many good people have to die to defeat evil. Riva recounts those who have passed and how their sacrifice helped them bring Palin the spell needed to defeat the draconians. Riva continues with her story...

Wistan enters the castle to find it empty. In the main room at the top of one of the towers, Wistan finds three versions of Ravenna. Two of the non-existent versions dissolve under attacks from the knight. As he swings his blade for a killing blow at the remaining wizard, this one also turns out be an illusion.

By aid of her spells, Ravenna pulls Wistan's sword out of his hand and plunges a pair of daggers into the knight's stomach. Wistan charges the wizard and grabs his sword long enough to attack her with it. Locked in a hand to hand grapple, Wistan pushes her toward the open tower window. As they both fall to their death, Wistan proclaims that Ravenna will wield no more evil magic on Krynn.

As the two bodies lie motionless on the ground, the rising sun starts melting the snow, and the land starts to be reclaimed from Ravenna's long winter.

Commentary

This was a very, very good issue. The only thing holding it back from being a great issue, was that the Riva section of the story was so short and uneventful. After all her traveling, the ending is her and two kids watch Palin cast a spell. I would have liked some combat at the end, or some kind of resolution to Darial and Shaya's story. Overall, a very weak ending to her tale.

Also the art was a bit strange. As I commented before, it looks like DC was one again experimenting with some computer coloring on the pages, in many places it looked good (like Palin casting the spell), but in others it looked really awful (like the closeup of Riva where her age lines are done with shades of flesh tones, instead of line art. But that's only a minor complaint since the artwork for the draconians, and most of the other creatures and characters are nicely detailed and very engaging.

As for the Wistan section, the writing was strong and the art was probably the best of the series. The combats with the thanoi and the frost giant were exciting and well paced. I really enjoyed Hagen's trick and was sad that he didn't escape the giant after all his work.

Portraying much of Wistan's journey during a snow storm added an energy and urgency to the panels. The battle with the thanoi could have been a bit better, the creatures come off as naked brutes, and none wield their trademark ice battle axes.

But this small bit doesn't take away from what is a really, really good issue. The only way it could be better would be for all of it to focus on Wistan and ignore the Riva parts.