Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #1
Jody Houser (script), Ariana Maher (letters), Matthew Mercer (story), Msassyk (colors), Olivia Samson (art), Fiona Staples (cover)
Dark Horse Comics
July 10, 2019
I have been a Dungeons & Dragons nerd almost as long as I’ve been a comics nerd, and its wonderful seeing them both have major pop culture resurgences in recent years. A big part of that resurgence for D&D has been the success of a little home game turned Twitch stream with several voice actors. The Critical Role crew has made D&D accessible, and have taught more people the joys of the game than anything else I can remember.
One thing that stood out in the first Critical Role campaign is that rather than starting a brand new campaign, we jumped into the game in progress. The player characters all already knew each other and were already ninth level characters, nearly halfway through the progression. This meant fans had to piece together parts of the history with questions to the cast, and snippets dropped here and there in the game.
That started changing with the first Dark Horse comic series, which showed us how several of the characters met and the first adventures they had together. There were still two characters that the first arc did not introduce: Pike Trickfoot as played by Ashley Johnson, and Lord Percival Fredrickstein von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III as played by Taliesin Jaffe. Both of these are fan favorite characters, and were sorely missed in the first volume.
Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #1 picks up shortly after the end of the first volume, with the organized party enjoying their newfound local renown. The party as currently constructed is half-elf rogue Vax’ildan (Liam O’Brien), his ranger sister Vex’alhia (Laura Bailey), fellow half-elf druid Keyleth (Marisha Ray), gnome bard Scanlan Shorthalt (Sam Riegel), goliath barbarian Grog Strongjaw (Travis Willingham), dragonborn wizard Tiberius Stormwind (Orion Acaba) and Vex’alhia’s bear Trinket. Our story opens with the disappearance of Grog, and the rest of the party going off to find him. Well, most of the party, anyway. Tiberius doesn’t go with the others, which makes me wonder a bit about how close these stories will stay to the original game.
Part of the beauty of adaptations is that you can change things that no longer fit the story you want to tell. The Critical Role team had a falling out with the actor who played Tiberius, and the character wound up leaving the game pretty early on into the stream, and leaving a bit of a conundrum for adaptations like this and the upcoming cartoon. The rest of the cast can provide input as the series is written as to how their characters are portrayed, while Acaba doesn’t have that direct line anymore. So while I don’t know if they’re writing the character out in the comics earlier than he left the game, I do know that they do not plan to use him in the animated series, despite his being present for some of the adventures there. I’d be perfectly fine if this adaptation took a page from the medium it’s part of and provides everyone with a retcon of the group’s past.
One thing I love, is that aside from the story being provided by Mercer, the entire rest of the creative team is women. Jody Houser provides a script that perfectly captures the voices of these characters I grew to love through over 400 hours of game-play. Olivia Samson has provided the art on both volumes of the book so far, and the characters look very much like how I picture them. The biggest delight I had in this issue was our introduction to my favorite character from the first campaign, Pike Trickfoot. She looks exactly like she does in my mind’s eye, with one exception: her hair has not yet turned white.
After all the hours I’ve spent watching, I’m deeply invested in seeing how this story starts. And while Vox Machina Origins #1 didn’t have a lot of action, it did have the characters I deeply love, and they were instantly recognizable. I hope we see many more issues, and I’d even love to see them dig into stories we have already seen.