Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Dakkon Blackblade #1

Dakkon Blackblade #1




SUMMARY
On the continent of Corondor a kid, only called “Boy of Carth”, after the city-state he lived in, is chucked into the prison of planeswalker Geyadrone Dihada.  There he runs into the Mad Monk (No, not the Doctor Who villain). The Monk, after hearing that Carth tried to kill Geyadrone in revenge for her conquering his city and killing his people, teleports Carth to Geyadrone’s library, allowing him to steal a grimoire that can summon Dakkon Blackblade, and the Amulet of Ti-Fu, which he can use to bind Dakkon to him. Dakkon has a major mad-on for Dihada, since… well, let’s have the Monk explains things for us.

We'll talk more about this "turning Dakkon into a planeswalker" business later, don't worry.


Dakkon is not amused at being summoned by a random pipsqueak, but the amulet of Ti-Fu prevents him from killing Carth and from planeswalking away until he’s killed Dihada. After a skirmish with her that nearly kills Carth, Dakkon saves the boy, and the two bond a little next to a campfire. Then Dihada returns with a few more powerful minions in tow. First fellow Richard Kane Ferguson creation Sol’kanar the Swamp King...



...and when he is defeated…


...freaking Elder Dragons! Dakkon unsummons Chromium, but is left drained of his power. Carth has gotten his hands on the Blackblade though, after Sol'kanar dropped it. He passes the sword to Dakkon, who is restored to full might and kills Piru. 

Then it is revealed all this was actually a plan of Dihada herself! She was the Mad Monk who set Carth on his path in the first place! She needed Dakkon using the Blackblade to kill Piru, which allowed her to absorb the dead dragon’s energy. Then she places her seal on Dakkon, allowing her to to summon him, and use HIM as the ultimate weapon, rather than the Blackblade. (It’s not made explicit why she didn’t do this to Dakkon before, but I guess she needed Dakkon bound to a mortal by the amulet of Ti-Fu to be able to tag him. It makes sense that a planeswalker is just to powerful to be tagged normally)

So Dakkon and Carth are pretty much the losers of the story, but at least Dakkon has his blade and his shadow back. The two decide to go to Terisiare to try their luck there. As they head off, Dakkon coins a new title for the kid: Carth the Lion.

Get it?

Carth the Lion… CARTHALION?!

Yeah! Dakkon Blackblade sneakily includes the origin of the Carthalion lineage! How awesome is that?

…wait. Because I’m going through these things in chronological order, we haven’t met any Carthalions yet, so that moment falls a bit flat. Bummer. Well, believe you me, the Carthalion family line is a huge deal in the Acclaim part of the canon. We’ll be seeing plenty of the descendants of this Carth the Lion!


REVIEW
I'll be blunt: I love the Dakkon Blackblade comic. It may just be my favorite of all the Magic comics. Dakkon and Carth are great characters, Dihada may be a bit one dimensionally evil but is still awesome thanks to her stylish design, Sol’kanar and the Elder Dragons are just cool. Next to the characters, the story also has great art, some great character- and mood moments, cool ideas and great design all over.

I like that Dakkon is a nasty peace of work. He is gruff, unwilling to go along with Carth at first, focussed on killing Dihada and then killing Carth (Which Carth says he doesn’t even care about, as long as Dakkon kills Dihada first). And just look at his backstory:


Killing gods know how many slaves in those ten years… that’s pretty brutal! And he's not even remorseful about those killings. This is not a standard goody two-shoes hero people! Plus he just looks bad-ass.


Other characters also get developed well. This comic actually takes the time to give us some nice moments to establish personalities, or just to set the mood of a scene. Take Carth for example, who is so single mindedly focused on vengeance against Dihada that he doesn't care about his own life...


...or the introduction of the Monk.


That is not to say the story is perfect. While we get a bunch of nice scenes that get all the time they need to play out, like that last one, others are still lacking in space. Take Dakkon telling his origin for example. As you could see it's quite the info dump. I'd have much preferred to see that story shown in pictures, drawn out over a number of pages. As always though, there is only so much space in a comic. (Doing these Armada reviews, I'm starting to realize that in my perfect world every comic would be either a brick-sized novel like From Hell or Bone, or a 10+ part epic like Sandman or Y: The Last Man...)

Let's turn to the art. Well, you've already seen a bunch of it by now: it really is very good. The artist this time around is Rag Morales, who is currently doing a lot of work for DC. Like with Alex Maleev last week, I think it is very cool to see early work by comic book artists who have gotten famous in the meantime. Early works doesn't mean it's primitive though. Already we have some great, expressive character work...


...and very flowing, clear art with a good sense of motion.


I especially like the various graphical tricks used to show the casting of spells.



Dihada also has a pretty sweet design.

By "Sweet" I mean freaky and inhuman.

Overall this is a great comic I can heartily recommend to anyone interested in the Magic storyline.

TRIVIA
The Elder Dragons here are called Piru and Rhuell, the latter variously called “The Chromium Dragon” and “Chromium Rhuell” or just “Rhuell”. Although he’s much sleeker than he looks on the card, the letters pages here (and in other Acclaim comics he turns up in) confirm it is the guy from Legends, not some other chrome-plated dragon. "Rhuell" is later said to be Chromium's "human name". This confusion with his name comes from a the fact that Wizards of the Coast apparently got cold feet about using Chromium in the comics for some reason. (Perhaps because *SPOILERS* he dies in a later comic). In my talks with Jeff Gomez he told me the following:
"An interesting note: late in our editorial development WotC began to get cold feet about our use of the Chromium Elder Dragon. They asked us to use "a different Elder Dragon who is Chromium but has another name to distinguish him from the real Chromium." That's why Chromium is also called Rhuell. Of course, I felt there was only one Chromium, so in a kind of silent protest, I referenced the dragon as Rhuell but never referenced that there was any other Chromium Elder Dragon, and so Rhuell stuck as that only one!"

This is interesting for another reason: apparently Wizards at this point had not yet come up with the Elder Dragon War, and the idea that the five from Legends were the only Elder Dragons left, as they were talking about there being several Chromium dragons. This must have quickly changed, since in the Elder Dragons story the Elders refer to themselves as "The Five", and here in Dakkon Blackblade a big point is made about Piru being the mysterious sixth Elder.

Speaking of Piru... where did this sixth Elder come from? Unfortunately, we'll probably never know. This comic doesn't tell us, and it is unlikely that Wizards will ever return to the subject. The storyline of community of old discussed this, and consensus seems to have been that Piru must have been a Lesser Elder, a member of the generation after the five that survived the Elder Dragon War. Jeff Lee put this on his website as a fact, due to which later generations of storyline fans assumed that was canon. This is not the case though, it is purely speculation on the part of the community of old. It should be noted that the Dakkon comic very clearly states Piru is the sixth Elder Dragon, not some other kind of dragon. As such I'm inclined to say she's another survivor of the war. But as Wizards will probably never give us a clear answer, everyone is entitled to their own fanon explanation.

For more on the Elder Dragons, you can check my article on what we actually know about them!

From a very serious continuity issue to something a bit more frivolous: the Seer Analysis article advises enchanting Dakkon Blackblade with Holy Strength, so you’ll be safe from Armageddon. Oh, the early days of Magic...

You may remember that the end of Fallen Angel referred to the events of Dakkon Blackblade as the Blackblade-Dihada War. The conflict between the two does result in a lot of destruction, with the death of Piru tearing open a huge chasm in the continent of Corondor, this comic takes place entirely over two days, so I must say "War" is a bit too grandiose a name for it. Unless the War is supposed to be the entire conflict between the two since Dakkon's ascension, which Dihada claims happened millennia ago.

Oh, yeah, after absorbing Piru's energy Dihada temporarily loses control over her form and ends up looking like that.

I forgot to mention this last week, but Fallen Angel and Dakkon Blackblade are the first stories we've covered that happen on the continent of Corondor. A small continent just north of Jamuura, Corondor will become the place where many of the current-day Armada stories happen, and the eventual location of the Planeswalker War. Oh, and it originated in Jeff Gomez's Dungeons and Dragons campaigns!

Corondor is the landmass pretty much smack dab in the middle of this map. We'll look at more detailed maps of it when we get to the Shadow Mage comic and the Battlemage game.

Finally, maybe Dihada should go to Rabiah and have a chat with Nailah. After all, both of their plans revolve around getting control over a planeswalker and using them as the ultimate minion. Only Dihada actually succeeds!

CONTINUITY
There are a few big continuity questions raised by this comic. The first is the question about where Piru came from, which I already discussed in the Elder Dragon article. Second, there is Dakkon’s ‘walkerhood. He is given the power of a planeswalker by Dihada? That’s not supposed to be possible according to the planeswalker rules that will eventually be established. So is he a proper planeswalker? This book certainly considers him one. The back cover says so. The story itself says so. The textpiece in the back says so. Other than the origin of his powers, nothing suggests that he isn't a proper ‘walker. The most logical way to square the circle seems to be that Dakkon had a spark, and Dihada merely triggered his.

Speaking of sparks, check this out. When Chromium Rhuell hits Dakkon with a power draining spell, we get this quote:


Following that we get this…


...and then…


Sparks! The very first mention of them in my project! Reading through this comic now, knowing how the planeswalker rules will eventually crystallize, it certainly seems like Dihada says Dakkon and Carth both have sparks. It's not entirely evident (She could just mean Carth has the personality to handle such power) and it's a bit odd that Chromium is apparently able to extract Dakkon's spark, only for him to get it back when he's reunited with his sword, but it is almost too perfect not to interpret things that way. Perhaps Chromium merely repressed Dakkon's powers, making it feel like he was losing his spark, with the Blackblade allowing Dakkon to undo whatever enchantment was placed on him? Whatever the case, the first mention of the spark is certainly a very important step in the building of the Magic mythos. Don't get to used to it though. It'll be a good long while before it becomes set in stone that you can only become a planeswalker if you possess the spark, and we'll see a few more people becoming 'walkers without any reference to it before we're done with the Armada comics.

TIMELINE
We can't give Dakkon Blackblade a definitive date, but we can make a rough estimate. To start with, the blurb on the credits page places this story “Centuries before the Brothers War”.


The Story of the Battlemage Ravidel places it “millennia after the fall of the Thran”. Taking those dates together suggests that we're talking about the period of about -1500 AR to -200 ARish. Any earlier and I feel it would've been described as "millennia before the Brothers' War". It's not very precise, but it is something. Also keep in mind what we learned last week: Geyadrone is conquering the White Woods when Trine is turned into a Fallen Angel, and Eskil the White helps the people of Corondor during the Geyadrone-Dihada War. That means Geyadrone has been waging war on southern Corondor for over three centuries, during which Trine was doing the same in the north! Living on Corondor in the pre-Brothers' War era must suck hard!

Before I'll place these stories on the timeline, there is one more story we need to discuss: “The Dragon War”, which appeared as a back-up text-story in Dakkon Blackblade. (Don’t get too exited, it has nothing to do with the Elder Dragons, the dragons in question are those ridden by Sivitri Scarzam). Later this week I'll put up a review of that story, and discuss the way it ties into Dakkon and Fallen Angel. Hope to see you then! For now, I'll leave you with these two pin-ups of Dakkon Blackblade. (I must say I like the second one more. I feel it reflects Dakkon's attitude better.)





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