Friday, 1 May 2015

Elder Dragons #1-2

Elder Dragons #1-2


In issue 2 Jessica Kindziersko is credits for "Colors" alongside Digital Chameleon

We start in the town of Mors Ridge, where a warlord, Red Donald, demands to station his troops. The locals are apprehensive about this, since “The Tickery” must not be interfered with. It is explained to Donald that 80 years ago a small girl wandered into a cave and found two dragons: Palladia-Mors and Chromium Rhuell. Chromium befriended her, but Palladia was just annoyed. When the locals came looking for the kid, they thought the dragons were evil and attacked, which was all the excuse Palladia needed to go on a rampage. Nothing could stop her, until a mysterious passing stranger cast a spell that put her to sleep. Ever since, the townsfolk have been keeping Palladia down with their Tickery. Donald doesn't believe the story. When a magical storm picks up his Dragon Whelp familiar convinces him to start digging canals in the ridge.  You can probably guess where this is going…

Let sleeping dragons lie, don't start digging canals on their back.

The Dragon Whelp reveals he’s actually Vaevictus Asmadi (Called Asmodi in the comic). He’s been manipulating Donald in order to awaken Palladia, needing her to lift the curse that turned him into a whelp. Palladia does so, and together with an army of zombies and orcs the two Elders start wreaking havoc.

Throughout the chaos Ham, the guy who’s been doing the Tickery for years, has been acting strangely. He refuses to hurt Palladia, and pushes away Ad’amra, Donald's daughter who has fallen in love with him. In the climactic battle the town wizard forces Ham to reveal his secret: he’s actually Chromium Rhuell! Chromium convinces Vaevictis to turn on Palladia, but Palladia easily dispatches of him.

And thus endless discussions on whether Vaevictis Asmadi is dead or just unsummoned began.

In the end Chromium manages to put the sleep-spell back on Palladia.

In the epilogue Ad’amra tries convince Chromium that a thing between them might work, but he is… less than receptive…

To be honest, this is one of the lesser Armada comics. It’s main drawback is the characters. Red Donald gets some nice character work in the second issue, where the previously boastful prick shows genuine sorrow and regret over releasing Palladia, but other than that all the characters are really bland. Ad'amra and the town wizard have no personality at all, Ham/Rhuell is to mysterious for his own good and Palladia is just evil for evil’s sake. The plot isn't much to write home about either. Issue one is taken up mostly with talks about the history of the town, issue two is just one big fight scene.

Then there is the romantic sub-plot. Let me give you an impression of how that develops.

...some pages later...

No, you didn't miss any scenes. She meets him, the guy does nothing but look broodingly out of windows for a few pages, and suddenly she has "seen an ancient depth" in him. Even more bizarrely, in later scenes Ham/Rhuell seems to reciprocate the feelings, even though he hasn't shown the slightest bit of interest in Ad’Amra. In a short story I can buy a "love at first sight" plot, but at least show some chemistry between the characters! Or any conversation at all! In previous reviews I said that I did like hints of characters being deeper than the comic had space to show, but if you’re going to do a love story, you can’t just hint at it, you have to actually show it.

On a positive note: the art is very detailed and pretty awesome. The coloring is especially great compared to a lot of the other Armada comics. In fact, the editorial in the back makes special mention of the inking done by the company Digital Chameleon, who used a special technique to print pages directly from the pencils. Wikipedia tells me they were also the first company in comic book industry to make widespread use of PhotoShop. I know absolutely nothing about printing, but I do know that this comic is very good looking!

I’m not entirely sold on the designs of some of the dragons, like Palladia's beer belly or Vaevictis' sideburns...

Also, Vaevictis is apparently Speedball in this picture.

…but I guess those are consistent with their looks on the cards, so I can't complain too much.

What I can complain about is this silly scene.

No such thing as dragons? Then what is that thing on your shoulder?!

As you probably noticed, this comic tells us nothing about where the Elder Dragons come from. The Elder Dragon War is never even mentioned. The editorial only says they have mysterious origins "scrawled within the most ancient tomes", so that's not very helpful. This is the origin of most of the other facts we know about the Elders though. For example, this is where it is stated that Palladia and Chromium are siblings and that Vaevictis is their cousin. Also, Chromium at one point states that the Elders "hail from the dawn of time", which will later become a boast from Nicol Bolas, as well as how Sorin describes Ugin. For more information on the Elders you can check out this article I wrote a while back.

Vaevictis Asmadi was turned into a dragon whelp by someone called Faralyn. We don’t get explained who that is, or why he did it, but remember the name. We’ll meet him when we get to Ice Age.

In the editorial it is said that writer Art Holcomb drew upon his Chinese heritage to incorporate "the Asian myth of the Tickery Man" in the story. I haven't been able to find anything about a tickery man in Chinese fables or mythology, so I can't really comment on this, but it is a cool little behind-the-scenes detail to know.

...and that's about it. Usually I can come up with more stuff, but this story is just very light on interesting material.

We don't get much to place this story on the timeline, just this little tidbit:

There are however a few hints that allow us to give a slightly more detailed placement. For example, Palladia calls Chromium a "traitor to the five" for siding with the humans. At the end Chromium tells Ad'Amra that he will never love again, clearly still hurt about something. Jeff Gomez has told me these little comments were intended as clues: in Dakkon Blackblade Chromium still had his mate Piru, who was referred to as the sixth Elder and was killed by Dakkon. So Elder Dragons has to take place after that comic. Since Palladia spends 80 years underground, we can also safely state that it has to happen after The Dragon War, which happened in the years directly following Dakkon. 

Unfortunately we can't say when it happens in relation to Arabian Nights. The chronology of the comics given in Urza-Mishra War #2 places Elder Dragons at the very beginning of the list, before Dakkon Blackblade and Fallen Angel, but mister Gomez has said this was a mistake. The Story of the Battlemage Ravidel doesn't mention the events of Elder Dragons, so that source isn't any help either. Which is perhaps a good thing, since up until now it has mainly caused confusion for us. So we'll have to make due with placing Elder Dragons somewhere between The Dragon War and the Brothers' War.

Speaking of which... I hope you will all join me next time for the original telling of the Brothers' War, when I review Antiquities War issues one through four and Urza-Mishra War one and two!


  1. Replies
    1. Ah, thank you! I've been reading that wrong since forever!

  2. I wrote up a timeline on some subway napkins over the course of a few hours a while back and I put this story as the canonical first for two reasons. One, it's often stated by other Vorthos that Bolas' birth is the first canonical thing to ever happen which lead me to put this further back than Fallen Angel's "Before written history" quote to put it in the timeline. Secondly, Wizards writes in a Seer's Analysis of Urza-Mishra War that the order of their comics began with Elder Dragons. It always tickles me to see Chromium as I recall what Ravidel does with his body and how much Jeff was proud to merge the "two" Chromiums into one, and forcing him to be recognized as an elder dragon. You do a fine job, master Squirle. Warmly,

    1. But Bolas's birth is not in this comic ;)