10th Aug2021

Review Round-Up: Contraband / D&D: At the Spine of the World

by Phil Wheat

Welcome to the latest graphic novel review round-up here on Nerdly, featuring reviews of Contraband from writer Thoma J Behe and illustrator Phil Elliot; and Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World from writers Aimee Garcia & AJ Mendez (aka former wrestler AJ Lee) and artist Martin Coccolo.


Written by Thomas J Behe | Art by Phil Elliott, Ian Sharman, Cherie Donovan | Published by Markosia | Format: Paperback, 144pp

Contraband follows a young man’s journey into a new “voyeur underground”, where profit-hungry youths prowl streets, secretly filming radical events with mobile devices to satisfy society’s demand for sensational on-the-go content. To enhance the “fully interactive experience,” key elements of modern wireless communication are woven throughout the work ― including text messaging, online blogging, avatars and alerts, and gaming and live video broadcast.

Part cyberpunk, part crime thriller, Contraband is a refreshing take on both that shows writer TJ Behe has a good grasp on what makjes for a great story. Behe’s writing is matched by Phill Elliott’s illustration which is the antithesis of what you expect from a techno-thriller, instead offering a very European, very indie, take on comic art. My only criticism is that the book is incredibly dialogue heavy, which takes some getting used to if you’re more acquainted with the US style of comic book storytelling. It’s a minor quibble in a book that is a fantastic reflection on the curent state of our technological dependency. Contraband would make for a great movie too IMHO.

**** 4/5

Contraband is available now from Markosia.

Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World

Written by Aimee Garcia, AJ Mendez | Art by Martin Coccolo, Katrina Mae Hao | Published by IDW Publishing | Format: Paperback, 96pp

A never-ending winter night is driving an isolated northern town to the brink of madness. To save them, Runa, Saarvin, Patience, Amos, and Belvyre must traverse the blighted tundra to find a cure. On the journey, they’ll encounter frozen obstacles, unimaginable monsters, and, perhaps most dangerous, dissension in their ranks and the fraying of the bonds of friendship that must sustain them through the dark.

It’s been years, and I do mean years, since I dipped my toes into the world of Dungeons & Dragons, in fact I was still in high school the last time I played a game or read any D&D literature. But what better way to get back into the genre than with a book that gained some notoriety for being co-written by former wrestler AJ Lee, one of the biggest and most popular female champions in WWE history? Thankfully Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World is the perfect jumping on point for lapsed D&D fans like myself.

Introducing a new group of varied heroes, this book spends the first quarter introducing the characters and letting us into the relationships between the diverse group and the heirachy of command. Everyone in the ensemble is  remarkably well-written and relateable (to the extent you can relate to fantasy characters on any quest in D&D); and there’s no shortage of action in this book either – as there should be in any D&D book – all drawn brilliantly by Martin Coccolo. The best thing about Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World though is that it is fun. LOTS of fun!

**** 4/5

Dungeons & Dragons: At the Spine of the World will be released by IDW on August 17th.


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