Writers: Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy
Artist: Carey Pietsch
The Adventure Zone is a graphic novel adaptation of the hugely popular McElroy Brothers podcast of the same name. Brothers Justin, Travis and Griffin along with their father, Clint, decided to play a little dungeons and dragons and it became the massive success that it is today. In this first adaptation, we meet our hero-adjacent trio: Magnus, a musclebound and golden hearted human warrior, Taako, a delightfully flamboyant elf wizard, and Merle Highchurch, your new favorite incompitent bible thumping dad. Ill-equipped but ready to rush into anything, our boys set off on their first adventure in Here There Be Gerblins.
We are immediately introduced to the three lovable knuckleheads, Magnus Burnsides, Taako, and Merle Highchurch. The three embark on their first adventure as Tres Horny Boys, which spares no expense at growing if difficulty and complexity. We also meet our trusty narrator and DM, Griffin. Griffin acts as a rules guide and DM without impeding on the story.
From here on out, the story grows in complexity. They arrive at the mouth of a cave which basically leads them right to the epicenter of their problems. Making their way through the cave, our friends find themselves face to face with obstacle after obstacle starting with a gerblin, and ending with the containment of a very important magical artifact known as the Phoenix Fire Gauntlet. All while constantly antagonizing each other, and everyone around them.
This book also introduces series favorites such as Barry Bluejeans and Killian, as well as our first introduction to the moon based organization known as the Bureau of Balance.
Without giving much else away, this also leads into the full overarching plot of what came to be known as the Balance campaign, which sent our heroes on quest after quest retrieving dangerous and magical artifacts from all over the universe. We finish the book with the boys meeting their new boss on the moon, Lucretia, as they enter a new phase as employees of the Bureau of Balance.
WINS: This entire book was such an amazing adaptation. It’s hard to adapt one form of media to another, but especially hard to adapt an actual play podcast to a graphic novel, yet the McElroy’s did it with a grace and ease that we all wish we could possess. Carey Pietsch delivers a real punch with her artwork, bringing out each characters personality time and time again. TAZ is a book you can dive into no matter what you like. If you love D&D, if you know nothing about it, if you just want to dip your toes in, this is a fun way to do so.
LOSSES: I might be a little bias here, but I don’t think there really are many. One thing that might confuse readers the first time through —if they listened to the podcast— was some of the name changes that were made so Wizards of the Coast didn’t have an aneurysm over copywriting. I played the original campaign this was based off of, and the one thing I can honestly say I missed seeing in the book was everyone yelling, ‘Did you say your name was Clark?!’ If you don’t know what I mean, don’t even worry about it. Again, this book has it all for me and I can’t think of anything more I could want out of it.
FINAL THOUGHT: Look, if I could rate this to a 10, I’d give it 1000+. I am a huge fan of the McElroy brand and it all started with the podcast that spawned this beautifully drawn, hilarious, and well-written book. I highly recommend this to anyone and everyone and I think it can reach many audiences because it truly has something for everyone. If you are sick of supes and just want some very good fourth wall breaking high fantasy hijinks, then this is the book for you. The McElroys have some of the most amazing fans, and many of them are incredible artists, so the back of the book treats its readers to a beautiful gallery of fan art.