First Impressions: The end of the Dragonlance comics is here! I’m not sure why this run wasn’t collected like the first four, but maybe it has something to do with the ever-changing writers on this final stretch. Mishkin, who wrote the entire series bar the one filler issue last time, only has one more story here in issue 28; the others are done by Charles and Lisa Moore (issues 26, 27 and 29), Maddie Blaustein (issues 30, 31 and 32) and Paul Kupperberg (issues 33 and 34). I also found that Maddie Blaustein is the voice actor of Meowth from Pokemon, which Claire and I have been watching for her review series. Small world!
Since there’s so many stories this time around, I’m going to give my thoughts on each one individually, as if it were a short story anthology.
The Gathering (2 issues): Riva‘s bronze dragon friend Ktarrh flies off. The companions hire a boat to follow him over the Glass Sea. However, they themselves are being pursued by Karranus of the Minotaur League and his soldiers, who wants to capture Griffin and Skrum as deserters. To escape Karranus, Riva’s ship sails into mysterious glass caves. They find mysterious writing inside and are attacked by strange illusions. When they leave the cave, Karranus’s ship is waiting for them. At that moment a deadly shardstorm blows up. Far away, in the lands of Thenol, the Dark Bishop Trandamere talks to his god Hith (better known in Ansalon as Hiddukel, the god of greed and lies.) He’s found a nest of silver dragon eggs and intends to corrupt them to make more draconians to help Hith conquer Taladas. Meanwhile, Riva wakes up back inside the cave to find Ktarrh there! He, and other good dragons, were summoned to defend the dragon eggs, but returned to rescue Riva’s ship from the shardstorm. Karranus survived as well, and he followed the others; a battle breaks out. Hester, a minotaur sailor on the glass rider ship, challenges Karranus to single combat and kills him. Meanwhile, ogres attack the silver dragon eggs, and the dragons fight them off, but the eggs are shattered. I found this story pretty forgettable. Our main characters don’t have a lot to do – they’re sidelined in favour of showing us impressive things. I liked the glass sea, but it’s all pretty pointless to the actual story being told: the shardstorm particularly is thrown in just to be a cliffhanger between issues, and then it’s gone with no consequences whatsoever! This story also starts a trend in this run of failure: our main characters escape from the minotaurs, but fail to save the dragon eggs. The stakes being the dragon eggs also ends up with no one winning, so there’s no lasting results there either. I found the hints of a greater story about the struggle between Hith and Erestem’s followers for Taladas interesting; it’s a pity that this never got developed further.
The Path to Power (1/2 issue): Cantavian the minotaur gladiator and cousin of Axantheas from the Landfall story arc wants the power of Erestem (better known as Takhisis back on Ansalon.) He bullies his way into a temple of Erestem and communes directly with a five-headed dragon statue, and it kills him. What a loser. Well, you can’t expect much from these filler stories.
The Perilous Power of Feh (1/2 issue): Feh, a stupid hobgoblin in a tribe of stupid hobgoblins, makes a deal with Erestem (a.k.a. Takhisis) to become leader of his tribe. He gets magic powers and a magic ring, but doesn’t bother learning the last part of the bargain. After years of being leader and getting with the lovely and desirable Olob (it’s funny because she’s neither of these things. No, wait. It’s not funny.) Erestem demands that Feh goes and kills Riva Silvercrown. When he’s gone, the other hobgoblins promptly overthrow him for their former leader. They also learn the last part of the deal – his powers only work on things in front of him. Feh never learns this, and he’s eaten in the swamp by a monster. This story is actively awful and I hated it. It’s a ‘comedy’ relying on laughing at how ugly and dumb all the hobgoblins are, and I hate that sort of race-essentialist, eugenics-based thinking.
A Sort of Homecoming (1 issue): Riva, her companions and their ship arrive at the Glass Sailor keep during a shardstorm. The doors nearly don’t open for them, and they’re saved only by the magic of the two elves in the party. The other Glass Sailors, especially their mage Krey, are unhappy about the presence of outsiders, when suddenly horax (big angry bugs) attack their fields! Riva and co. go fight the horax. Krey uses fire magic against them which defeats the horax but sets the whole field ablaze, and he’s exiled by the other glass sailors. Riva is upset and rescues him on Ktarrh, then fights her way back into the keep. Krey is killed in the fighting, and Riva decides to leave the Glass Sailors. Another filler story! I guess that there was some chaos behind the scenes getting a writer after Mishkin left, and this story feels like spinning wheels until a permanent writer can be chosen. This story is actually about Riva’s destiny as the emissary of Paladine in Taladas, as she tries to influence the Glass Sailors to show mercy. However, it’s mostly about how she’s not very good at doing her job! She’s not listened to as she tries to get people to change their customs, she winds up attacking them and gets into a sword fight with her only friend in the Glass Sailors, and ultimately she fails and decides to leave.
Sword of the Kinslayer (3 issues): Flashback time! Just before the War of the Lance (the comic actually says after, but it’s clearly meant to be beforehand), Lord Silvercrown is holding his annual Yuletime tournament. After Riva’s not allowed to take part, she decides to go find a missing shipment of dwarven weaponry. The hill dwarves have been ambushed by Uurthrym Thane of the Wolf Clan, a mountain dwarf who believes in old dwarven tribalism and poor oral hygiene. He also has a mysterious mountain mentor who is obsessed with Silvercrown. Uurthrym delivers the weapons to Lord Silvercrown so he can show him his cursed magic sword, the Sword of the Kinslayer, with which Lord Silvercrown becomes magically obsessed. Riva finds the dead dwarves and Andvari, the caravan guard, who’s still alive. Riva takes Andvari back to the hill dwarf villages, where she learns about Uurthrym. Meanwhile, Uurthrym’s sponsor is upset because he wanted Riva, not her father. Uurthrym attacks the hill dwarf village to find her and captures Riva and Andvari. Andvari is sacrificed to the patron, while Riva escapes. Uurthrym manages to catch her and bring her back but refuses to hand her over – he’s fallen in love with her – so his patron kills him. Just then, Lord Silvercrown shows up and claims the sword for himself. The patron is revealed as a white dragon (no surprise – it’s been using its ice breath this whole time!) Riva falls into the dragon’s lair, where she discovers its nest of eggs, all about to hatch. Theolin, the priest of the hill dwarves, is there too, with a magic Horn of Blasting which he uses to destroy the nest. The dragon tries to rescue the eggs but is buried too. Meanwhile, Riva rejects the enchantments of the Sword of the Kinslayer herself. Her bewitched father tries to kill her, but loses the sword saving her from a white dragon hatchling. The white dragon itself emerges, not dead. It knows about Riva’s destiny, and wants to corrupt or kill her before she can accomplish it. Riva faces it down, and it dies of its wounds. All the knights are impressed with her valour, and Lord Silvercrown says he’ll reconsider her becoming a knight. It’s really hard not to interpret this story as a metaphor when I learned that the writer was transsexual. It’s all about how Riva wants to be accepted as a knight, rather than follow traditional female gender roles. She’s pretty brash and inexperienced, and consistently gets called out for making stupid idealistic choices. At the same time, she’s the only person who can resist the Sword, even when it offers her everything she wants. I also liked young Riva’s costume way more than her modern one. She’s in bright colours and armour and looks way more like a knight than adult Riva does, in her drab low-cut leather. That said, there’s a few problems that I have with the story. When isn’t there? I really don’t like how the white dragon babies were innately evil and had to be killed. This alignment essentialism is a big topic at the moment, of course! There’s the problem that I’ve spoken about before of having stories set before the War of the Lance, in that none of the iconic Dragonlance elements exist, and so everyone has to break canon by having dragons show up too early, like this one does. I’m also not sure that this one fits well with Riva’s introduction, where she’s back to being chastised for wanting to be a knight. She faced down a dragon! Which also means she should have been less surprised when they showed up again in the first story arc. Also, her initial interactions with her father are pretty negative, but they don’t seem to reflect on how he tried to kill her! This family needs therapy! Still, continuity aside, it’s a pretty good story, and the big money shots of the white dragon are awesome. It’s the best story this time around.
The Legend of the Blackgem (2 issues): Back in Taladas, Griffin’s been wounded by a minotaur attack. Riva and company find a ruined village with only Tykel, a mysterious old healer of Mislaxa (better known as Mishakal). Tykel tells them the story of Miisia Genyei, the founder of the Mislaxan healers. Miisia grew up in a farming community shortly after the Cataclysm. One day, she met a dying traveller and found that she could feel the pain of others and cure them. His name was Marsval Solarzz, and his family had been protecting the Blackgem. Now it was in the hands of the warlord Bylarr, who wanted to use it to conquer Taladas. Miisia wanted to be rid of the healing powers, which brought her such pain, so she and Marsval travelled up to a hidden temple in the mountains. Bylarr went there with his followers too. At the top, Bylarr summoned an elemental of the temple to kill Miisia and Marsval, but she was able to heal it – killing Bylarr and purifying the Blackgem in the process. As a result, she learned how to control her powers and decided to keep them, and inspired others to follow in her footsteps. This final story really ends the Dragonlance comic not with a bang but a whimper. It’s a pretty tiresome story, since Miisia spends the whole time in pain or complaining about her powers. The wider conflict between Bylarr and Solarzz doesn’t have time to develop, so our villain is never more than a lame Warduke knock-off. It doesn’t really have much payoff for Riva either: she’s interested because she’s also the chosen of a god, but she doesn’t really learn anything from it, and it doesn’t really relate to her situation greatly.
Overall Summary: That’s the end of the Dragonlance comics! I wish they’d had more time to develop. The early stories were too closely tied to the novels, but the later half of Dan Mishkin’s stories were pretty good – High Sorcery, A Winter’s Knight, and Landfall. I feel like the story was in an interesting place: it had changed from an anthology story to following a main character, their companions, and their ongoing adventures. There were a range of interesting antagonists: the League of Minotaurs, and then the developing conflict between the followers of Hith and Erestem. However, once Mishkin left, no one seemed to want to continue this story, so we’ll never know what happened next. Until their recent reprinting by IDW, these stories were pretty obscure. Riva Silvercrown returned in Dragonlance: Fifth Age, the roleplaying game, where she was the veteran commander of a garrison of Solamnic Knights in Southern Ergoth. She finally dies of old age – I think in the adventure The Price of Courage, which I haven’t read. Anyway, this final collection of stories is pretty lackluster. I’d label this one ‘for completionists only,’ and give it a rating of 1.5 Disks of Mishakal, just like the first collection.
Next time, I’m done with the comics at last! Calloo callay! It was fascinating to read them for the first time, but I am well and truly ready to return to the novels. So I’m starting the first book of the Preludes trilogy: Darkness and Light! See you then!