I really adore the Adventure Zone graphic novels. They’re a really fun supplement to the Balance Arc of the podcast. Though it’s hardly required to listen to the podcast to read the graphic novels. There’s no additional information to be found in the graphic novels save for changes made due to the adaptation process.
For example, Wizards of the Coast LLC, the company behind the game Dungeons & Dragons, has copyright on things like place and spell names in the game. So in the graphic novels the town of Neverwinter has become Eversummer, and other things like that. For me the biggest tragedy was losing the name Klarg. However, some of the other changes, in my opinion, improve the story.
If you aren’t familiar with the Balance Arc of The Adventure Zone, the three main chucklefucks, Merle, Taako and Magnus, are recruited by the Bureau of Balance to retrieve seven dangerous artifacts to save the world, but there are other secret goings on too. “Petals to the Metal” is the third act of the story, and our heroes converge on the town of Goldcliff looking to retrieve the Gaia Sash.
I really love the art for these books, it’s expressive and stylized in a way that is really fitting for each character. Since The Adventure Zone started out in an audio only medium, the fandom surrounding his has an absolutely huge range of ways that each character is drawn, so cementing one look for the graphic novel had to have been a challenge, and I really appreciate that they’ve included other art in the back of the book that shows different takes on the characters.
In this book, I was particularly struck by how Captain Captain Bane was drawn. I don’t think I’d ever imagined him particularly clearly, but it was definitely nowhere near the tender eyed beefy o’ burley we got. I’m definitely not complaining though, I really love what was done with Captain Bane in the graphic novel. Because podcast as a medium doesn’t really allow for concurrent storytelling and interactions between NPCs in D&D can get weird, because it’s just the DM talking to themself, we didn’t initially get a huge amount of relationship development between Captain Bane and Lieutenant Hurley, and it was really nice to see more of Captain Bane throughout, especially considering how his character ends the book/act.
Lastly, I do want to talk about Hurley and Sloane, our tragic antagonist. They were a lesbian couple from the moment they were introduced, however, in the podcast it was predominantly subtext. In the timeline of things I think this was where Griffin, the DM, was beginning to sort through adding queer characters into the show. The book makes it explicit, they were girlfriends before Sloane was corrupted by the Gaia Sash.
Furthermore, as I mentioned before this was written at the beginning of the gay character learning curve for the boys. So in the podcast Hurley and Sloane fall pray to the Bury Your Gays trope. Hurley is mortally wounded and Sloane turns them both into a tree. Learning from his mistakes, Griffin brought back Hurley and Sloane as dryads in the Balance arc finale “The Day of Story and Song.” The graphic novel takes that one step further and makes explicit that it is Sloane’s intent to turn them into a dryads in order to save Hurley’s life. By the end of the book, while Tres Horny Boys don’t know that Hurley and Sloane are alive, we the audience get to see Hurley and Sloane as the dryad protectors of Goldcliff. All in all I think it’s a really beautiful fix to what was initially the ignorant usage of a bad trope.
One, uh, “warning.” There are three pages of Merle (played by the McElroy father, Clint) seducing some vines. It’s not NSFW or anything, but it’s an experience I think one might want to be prepared for is all, especially if you’re coming in having not listened to the podcast. In conclusion:
“Petals to the Metal” as well as the previous two books, can be found here.