Pathfinder: Hollow Mountain #1 by James Sutter and Tom Garcia (2015) – Comic Review
Pathfinder: Hollow Mountain is the latest installment of Dynamite Entertainment comic books based on Paizo’s 2009 tabletop role playing game (sort of an expansion for D&D 3.5). Now, I don’t pretend to know too much about tabletop gaming, but I’ve poured a few thousand hours of my precious life into RPGs. If you’re also a fan of RPGs and D&D, or just love the fantasy genre altogether, you’ll want to make room in your bag of holding for this dungeon adventure.
An initial concern of mine was that this book would be too high fantasy like R. A. Salvatore’s D&D inspired Forgotten Realms novels. The beginning of this comic fed those apprehensions, mostly due to the chunk of exposition we crawl through in the beginning. The characters start tossing around titles and country names right off the bat, and while this isn’t necessarily hard to follow, it was slightly foreboding. After those initial pages, though, I was so pleased to discover I was wrong.
The thing that makes Pathfinders: Hollow Mountain great is its self-awareness, sometimes reading more like a round of D&D with the gang than a straightforward narrative. The way the heroes move through the dungeon, the way they shrug off damage because their healer stands ready: all of it really succeeds in poking fun at RPGs while reminding you why you love them in the first place.
One amazing touch is about halfway through when the party, a multi-classed group of Pathfinders, is making progress through the titular Hollow Mountain dungeon. Instead of typical panels, we get few pages which are set up like an overhead map, a blueprint of the dungeon like you’d find in a tabletop gaming set. We can see separate rooms and passages, but in place of some rooms are colorful action shots of the party battling the beasts lurking within. It’s a really great way to pace the comic while creatively reminding you that this is a dungeon crawl campaign. The map isn’t there to situate you in the dungeon, doesn’t give you some awareness of the layout of Hollow Mountain, but is simply a wonderful nod to the genre.
I’m excited to see where this series goes and if it keeps up with the RPG fan service, but if it starts taking itself too seriously, the spell of enchantment will wear off quickly.
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