Comics Review: Infernal Tides is a delightful romp through Baldur's Gate
Updated: May 21, 2020
This review covers the first two parts of Infernal Tides, a five-part limited run comic series written by Jim Zub with art by Max Dunbar, colors by Sebastian Cheng, and letters by Neil Uyetake.
Infernal Tides #1 released November 2019 and is available for purchase here.
Infernal Tides #2 released February 2020 and is available for purchase here.
Disclosure: Thank you to Jim Zub for making review copies of Infernal Tides #1 and #2 available to The Gallant Goblin.
Spoiler Alert: This review contains spoilers for the first two issues.
Who's the audience?
Let me make it clear off the bat—I really enjoyed the first two issues of Infernal Tides and I am also pretty new to D&D comics. This is important information because Infernal Tides is technically the fifth and newest series starring Minsc and Boo, a human ranger and his miniature giant space hamster respectively. You don't need to be familiar with Minsc's extensive history or the previous comics to enjoy this story. All you need to know is Minsc is a hero and he has a miniature giant space hamster—your imagination is probably filling in the blanks right now.
If you for some inexplicable reason are not sold on the incredible concept of Minsc and Boo, you may want to consider watching this, with this comic's illustrious author, Jim Zub, playing Minsc and the beloved Matt Mercer playing Boo. Or, you know, play the Baldur's Gate video games.
The series takes place during the events of the Baldur's Gate: Descent Into Avernus storyline. It opens with a scene in Avernus, the first level of hell, as a chain devil—or kyton—oversees a work crew of lemures—the lowest form of devils—as they set up the chains that will drag the mortal city of Elturel into the River Styx, damning and conscripting all the souls within the city to serve in hell's armies. There's also a tease involving a mind flayer named Gideos who leads a group of mercenaries in Avernus called the Bloodrovers, complete with their own infernal war machine. Gideos is a new creation who does not appear in the published adventure. While the first two issues are primarily set in the Material Plane, this cold open serves as a reminder that all hell is about to break loose.
You do not need to be familiar with the events of Descent Into Avernus to enjoy this comic. In fact it may be better if you go in unspoiled, though intimate knowledge of the adventure brings its own joys.
What's so great about it?
The comic is beautifully illustrated and fast-paced. The fight scenes are a delight for any D&D player as you get to see spells and class abilities come to life on the page. There's a hilarious moment when a wild magic sorcerer experiences a wild surge and shrouds the entire battlefield in visibility-obscuring fog. I play a draconic sorcerer in my home game precisely because I feared the randomness of wild surge, but how this moment plays out makes me wish I hadn't been so boring. The event is more than just fan service—it leads to fun dialogue and a plot development that had my mind racing with possibilities about how such an impromptu event could spur story hooks and role playing at my game table.
And there's a lot more of that: a cleric calls her deity to defend her and a pair of rogues use their backgrounds to gather key information from shady contacts around the city. There's shape-shifting devils, a narzugon on his nightmare steed, a succubus using draining kiss, and more. The sheer variety of devils that appear in the comics is a visual feast and also a game of count-the-cameos for D&D veterans. It's great fun identifying spined devils and bone devils and imps and seeing them fight with their unique characteristics and personalities.
There's also some incredible set pieces like this panel of Zariel leading Elturel's Hellriders into Avernus in issue 2, which Zub shared in this tweet.
What if I don't know anything about Descent Into Avernus?
Perfect! This series is basically an introduction to the story. It actually begins prior to the adventure and then runs in parallel with roughly the first half of it (not having read the remaining three issues yet, I don't know where it ends). The comic is a great introduction to important background you need to know, introduces some key NPCs and locations you can encounter in game, and enriches the experience of playing the campaign. Being in hell is a lot more fun when you know Minsc and his party are in the same bind as you; maybe your DM will even let your two parties meet!
The first two issues are also a succinct summary of the events covered in the starter section of the adventure spanning levels 1-5. You could have your players read it and jump straight into hell instead of devoting months of sessions kicking around Baldur's Gate.
Will it be boring if I have read Descent Into Avernus?
Absolutely not. For one, there's some background information here that isn't fully included in the adventure. Minsc and co. also take a different route through the story than the players, so it's not a rehash or a substitute for experiencing the adventure. There are a ton of Easter eggs for perceptive readers and again, the art magnificently transports you to places that are only described or have only a few art pieces in the campaign book. Candlekeep in particular looks incredibly impressive and makes me want to lose my character in the library for weeks just reading all the lore on the shelves.
Moments that you know are coming such as Elturel's fall or Sylviras opening the infernal puzzle box are also built up so well it's a thrill when they finally unfold. The ending of issue 2 in particular had me jumping up and down in excitement specifically because I knew what was coming. It still blew me away because the writing and the art were done so well.
I don't trust a review that has nothing negative to say
Well that seems petty, but okay. Since I really want you to like me, I'll point out that the large number of characters is a little confusing to follow if you aren't already familiar with Minsc's party. Nerys the cleric, in particular, doesn't get a lot to do and I always forget who she is when she shows up, though there's still three issues left for her to shine.
It is, however, cool that each issue opens with the D&D character sheet for one of the main characters—Nerys is the sheet in issue 2, which is where I looked up her name. I'm looking forward to gathering them all and maybe incorporating them into a game. I could even see a group using them as pregenerated characters and playing through the comic storyline themselves.
Well this all sounds pretty good but what can you say to really sell me on this?
There are tressyms. Yes, you read that plural right. More. Than. One. Flying. Cat.
ISN'T THAT FACE ADORABLE?
I have a tressym named Waffles in my home game. Waffles gives Infernal Tides two paws and two wings up.
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