It's been way too long since my last comic post (or any post for that matter). Luckily, this is a standalone issue so no previous storylines are referenced here.
This issue contains two stories, one featuring a minotaur of the Imperial League, the other featuring a lowly hobgoblin questing to be the leader of his tribe. Sadly, while Myrella (the female wizard last seen in issue 16) appears on the cover, she does not actually appear in either story--already this issue is off to a bad start!
The Path to Power
The first story starts off with an arena combat where a minotaur, Cantavian, defeats another minotaur, Platius. Afterward, the Emperor talks with Cantavian and the leader of the Black Cloaks minotaur legion. Due to his win in the arena, Cantavian is grudgingly given support for creating a new unit similar to the Black Cloaks. Apparently this plan was originally the idea of Cantavian's cousin, who it turns out to be was General Axantheas (last seen in issue #25).
What no one else knows is that Cantavian is looking to create an army in the service of Erestem, and fulfill the bargain Axantheas made with the goddess and receive the power she was to give the general.
Upon hearing Cantavian's plan, Quillian, his trusted assistant, threatens to expose him. Cantavian is forced to kill the other minotaur in his quest for power.
Later, we see a group of robbed minotaurs who turn out to be part of the priesthood of Erestem, and they are not to happy to learn that someone else in the city seeks the favor of the dark goddess. Just then Cantavian bangs on the door demanding entrance. He pushes his way in, and then kicks down another door to get to the high priest.
Cantavian demands to speak to Erestem to claim his reward. As the dark queen animates a five headed dragon statue, the heads encircle the minotaur and then douse him in fire, leaving his burnt remains on the temple floor.
The Perilous Power of Feh
This story starts off with a group of traag draconians on the trail of Riva Silvercrown. Riva, much like Myrella on the cover does not appear in this issue.
The draconians encounter an area of swampy forest reeking of the foulest odor. One of the draconians comments that the hobgoblin's in the area cover the perimeter of their lands in filthy sludge to keep outsiders at bay. The draconians end up taking a detour around the stench.
Meanwhile, in the hobgoblin lands, Snonk has captured a huge slug and the rest of the tribe surrounds him in adulation. That is everyone except Feh, the Sludge-Spreader. Feh toils away in his thankless job, all the while bitter that he doesn't receive the adulation of his tribe, or the affections of Olob, a female in the tribe.
When Feh learns that Olob and Snonk are engaged, he takes matters into his own hands by seeking the help of Hanuk, a village shaman. The shaman has recently acquired a draconian scroll with directions for brewing a potion. The potion allows the imbiber to commune with the dark goddess Erestem. Before Hanuk can figure out the warning on the scroll, Feh drinks the concoction and finds himself in a dream realm where the goddess takes notice.
Feh asks for power and the goddess grants it to the hobgoblin. In exchange for the power to defeat all who stand before him, Erestem will call upon Feh for a service in her name.
Feh awakens in Hanuk's cave, seemingly unchanged. At the same time, the draconians find an opening in the sludge ring and decide to attack the hobgoblin village. While Snonk fights the draconian leader without success, Feh is able to unleash powerful magic on the draconian, defeating him in one shot and taking the leader's magical ring as Erestem had instructed.
Instantly, the village showers Feh with praise, and Olob takes Feh for a mate.
Some time later, Erestem visits Feh in a vision, reminding him that he still had a great service to perform for her. It seems she selected him to go confront Riva instead of the draconian leader because the hobgoblin looks so unintimidating.
As Feh leaves the village, Snonk returns to take control of the faltering village and get his revenge on Feh. It seems the hobgoblin went to visit Hanuk and learned the warning of the scroll that Feh never bothered with. While Feh has the power to conquer all who stand before him, he must also "watch his back".
As Feh wanders off, he has no idea of the creature stalking him from behind, or the limits of his powers.
I didn't really care for the first story. The plot was too simplistic and the art was really bad. The artist clearly didn't have experience with D&D style creatures since all the minotaurs looked like regular people with distorted faces and the close up shots looked like a horse with human eyes.
As for the story, it was not very engaging. An angry minotaur storms around for a bit and ends up getting killed for his arrogance. Not very original, and the "twist" ending was apparent too early for it to be shocking.
The second story was a bit better. The art work from Tim Gula really captures the swampy forest, and all the characters have a great amount of detail, from the draconians to all the various hobgoblins, as well as the main hobgoblins Feh, Snonk, Olob, and Hanuk. If there's any complaint about the art, it's that it has a very cartoony feel, and the hobgoblins look more like Saturday morning cartoon characters than real D&D creatures.
The story also features a twist ending, which is a bit predictable. What really makes this story stronger than the first part, is how much introspection we get. We see so much of Feh's situation and what he hopes for, we understand his willingness to deal with the devil (or a dark goddess in this case).
While the story didn't feel like a Dragonlance story (this might have been more at home in the cartoon pages of Dragon magazine), it was at least enjoyable.