Allow me to introduce myself, I am a gamer, one who happens to appreciate when a developer doesn’t just treat lore as an afterthought, but rather as the back-bone of their game universe. This is one of the reasons I have long been a fan of Blizzard. They have always done a great a job of helping gamers immerse themselves in the games they play, whether its through ground breaking cinematics, artwork, novels, comics, and web fiction, or just the missions and quests that are part of the game play itself. As Blizzard has matured as a company there has been an explosion of lore pieces made available to fans of all of the Blizzard’s gaming universes, and Diablo is no exception to this.
Perhaps it’s just that I’m starving for a release date, but I find myself devouring every piece of Diablo lore I can get my hands on. Back in December I had the pleasure of reviewing the Book of Cain for D3DB. It was like a delicious lore-feast, but sadly as with any feast I eventually grew hungry again. A few weeks ago a box showed up on my doorstep from Amazon.com containing every Diablo novel I could find, and yet still it is not enough. Its likely that the only thing that will really satisfy the hunger is getting my hands on my very own copy of Diablo 3, because let’s be honest, the beta is just a tiny appetizer before the main course.
In yet another attempt to whet my Diablo appetite I decided to pick up issue #1 and #2 of DC Comics five part Diablo comic series, called “the Sword of Justice”. I know that Christoffski posted a brief review on Diablo #1 in November), but I figured since I was reading them both anyways why not post a review of the two of them together. I wouldn’t consider myself an avid comic book collector, in fact I haven’t owned a paper copy of a comic book since I was a teenager. But who needs paper copies when you have the internet. For a very reasonable $1.99 each I bought the first two standard 22-page issues of this series from ComiXology.com. This is on the upper range of what DC Comics typically go for on this site, but really that’s a small price to pay for the few brief minutes that you can forget that Diablo 3 remains out of reach.
Note: I will be going into some depth on story elements in these two issues. Some may interpret these as spoilers, so I recommend reading the comics prior to finishing this article if you’re adverse to those.
The first issue takes the reader from an introduction to the grand scale of the underlying conflict between the Angels of the High Heavens and the Demons of the Burning Hells, and then plunges us into the unfolding story of the protagonist, a rather unassuming lad named Jacob. After the first few pages, the reader is left with the sense that we are diving into this story mid-way through the action. Not a bad place to start I’d say. The protagonist is compelled onwards and rather hap-hazardly discovers (or is he drawn to discover it?) a mysterious angelic sword bathed in light. This of course is the Sword of Justice, the namesake of the five-issue series and the weapon of the Arch Angel Tyrael.
That’s really as far as the story advances in the first issue. The remaining pages take us back in time so that we can discover how Jacob came to be in his current predicament, an outlaw of sorts, chased by his own countrymen. We are also introduced to a decidedly different barbarian culture than what we are familiar with from our past adventures in Sanctuary. There is something rather sinister at work among the barbarians since the fall of their sacred Mount Arreat. While we aren’t given much details, it compelled me to pick up the next issue to see what else I could learn.
Issue #2 does not disappoint. In the opening pages we get a taste of what plagues the men of the north.
Even Jacobs own people, who are described as being NOT barbarians, seem to be suffering from a dreadful force of some kind, an affliction of blood. In a rather dark but intriguing scene we discover why Jacob has left his home, being forced into combat with his own father. Then, just like that we are back in the present and are introduced to a woman who seems likely to be Jacob’s constant companion throughout this unfolding story. Whether this wizard, named Shanar, truly means well for Jacob is open to debate. I certainly was left with the sense that she was not telling young Jacob everything. Regardless her introduction does serve to inform the reader of some more grandious lore behind the Diablo universe, the Crystal Arch. First discussed in the Book of Cain, this artifact of perfect beauty resides in the High Heavens and resonates with a song that not only brings Angels into being but also somehow can shape the paths of humans. Again I was highly intrigued and can’t wait to find out more.
But before we can find out more Jacob’s past catches up with him and his pursuant countrymen attack. It seems they too possess this strange affliction of blood that drives them to act like wild beasts more than civilized men. Jacob takes up the Sword of Justice to defend himself but is reluctant to kill any of his attackers and ends up being captured and forced to witness more of his countrymen’s depravity. Luckily he is rescued by Shanar and the chase continues. I particularly appreciated the blast from the past as Jacob and Shanar flee through the black marsh, stumbling upon the ruins of the Forgotten Tower (of Diablo 2 fame). In typical comic book cliff hanger fashion, the final page introduces us to a new unforeseen foe. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next issue to find out more.
Aside from a decently interesting storyline both issues feature an art style that does a great job of evoking a sense of the menacing dark tones that make the Diablo franchise what it is. The angular and brusque line art of Joseph Lacroix and the very Diablo-ish color palette employed by Dave Stewart somehow stand set apart from Blizzard’s usual artistic style yet still manage to feel very Diablo. Both artists also did a fantastic job of portraying the infiltration of the sinister affliction of the Barbarians upon the men of the north, and left me wanting to know more.
If issues one and two are any indication, I think “The Sword of Justice” series will be both a highly entertaining read and also a great medium for advancing the lore of the Diablo franchise. So on both counts I applaud Blizzard and DC Comics. My only worry is that with only 3 more issues it seems like there is a lot of ground to cover to bring this story to completion. Of course who is to say that the story of Tyrael’s sword will end with this comic series? There is after all some upcoming web fiction; promised to the community in D3DB’s interview in December with Micky Neilson (a Senior Writer at Blizzard), who as it happens also had a hand in the Sword of Justice series. And of course there is always the impending release date announcement of a certain video game that is sure to be chalk full of lore goodies. I will not be surprised at all to see references to the Sword of Justice as we play through Diablo 3. But for now, we will just have to wait for another issue, left with a foreboding verse to tide us over and leave us wondering: