Published on July 19th, 2018 | by Jules-Pierre Malartre0
Review: WoW Battle for Azeroth: Jaina, Magni & Windrunner
Blizzard has published three special tie-in comic books for the release of Battle for Azeroth, the next expansion of its ever-popular World of Warcraft online game, and the great thing about them is that they’re free!
Blizzard has published some good comic books and graphic novels over the years. All are tied to some extent to the game and its history, and this latest series serves as prequels to the game expansion scheduled to land in August. The comic books can be downloaded (in PDF format) from Blizzard’s Battle.net website.
Tie-in novels, comic books, and even movies (most of them straight-to-DVD) are not uncommonly used as promotional fodder for video games. As such, they are not usually of the best quality. Add that they are freebies, and you’d probably lower your expectations even more. However, these Warcraft comic books are good!
World of Warcraft lost millions of players a few years ago. (The exact number is arguable, but give or take a million or so players, and it’s still a fairly alarming drop in popularity.) Whatever the reasons for the massive departure, Blizzard managed to hang on, and the last expansion, Legion, redeemed the game in the eyes of many fans. Battle for Azeroth promises even more. If you’ve seen the cinematic (a short video to advertise the game), you’ll agree that it was totally mind-blowing. (In many ways, even superior to the feature-length Warcraft: The Beginning movie released in 2016.) Personally, I find that the game has become increasingly repetitive. Regardless of the new story arc at the core of each new expansion, playing the game has simply become more of the same. The story is what keeps me coming back. And this expansion promises quite a story. The cinematic says that much, and those free comic books are a very nice sneak peek at what’s to come.
The three comic books are titled Reunion, The Speaker, and Three Sisters. They focus on some near-legendary figures in Warcraft history that will play key roles in the story to unfold in Battle for Azeroth. They are Jaina Proudmoore; Magni Bronzebeard; and the three Windrunner sisters, Alleria, Vereesa and, last but not least, Sylvanas, the Banshee Queen, and Warchief of the Horde, who will take center stage with her nemesis, King Anduin Wrynn, in Battle for Azeroth.
As both a Warcraft and comic book fan, getting these three Warcraft comic freebies is a lot like celebrating Free Comic Book Day a second time this year. I remember fondly the original, 25-issue World of Warcraft comic book series published by WildStorm back in 2007. I wish it had lasted longer. A few other limited series and graphic novels were also released, including the excellent Ashbringer and Curse of the Worgen series. There is also a series of Manga books, but Manga are not for everyone. I enjoyed the free comic books that were also released for the Legion game expansion, but these new ones for Battle for Azeroth feel like they are several notches higher. The Legion freebies felt like mere promotional pieces. They were not as compelling as what I am used to read when it comes to Warcraft graphic stories.
These latest three books are much more satisfying. Except for the fact that they were released in PDF, they actually “feel” like real comic books. The covers are very impressive, so is the interior art for the most part, and the stories are very compelling. Different artists and writers worked on all three books. Linda Cavallini and Emanuelle Tenderini’s artwork for the Jaina story is particularly beautiful with striking colors. Story-wise, my favorite is Three Sisters. Firstly, because I am fascinated by the Windrunner sisters’ story. The art is also very interesting, including the most outstanding cover of all three books. The book was also written by Christie Golden, one of my favorite shared universe novelists. She’s written a ton of tie-in novels for Star Trek, Star Wars, Halo and Warcraft (including the latest prequel novel, Before the Storm set just before Battle for Azeroth). She is now a permanent hire at Blizzard and I expect to see more of her Warcraft work in the future. All in all, all three comics give more than what you’d expect from freebies.
Jaina, Magni, and the Windrunner sisters are key characters in Warcraft lore. They also all have something in common: they are all haunted characters. If you’ve read the books and played the game, you already know what these characters went through. Jaina lost family, friends and her home to the war with the Horde. Magni was turned to living diamond, and his haunted by the fact he was never there for his daughter. And as far as the Windrunner sisters are concerned, where can I start? Alleria and Vereesa are more low-key than their infamous sister, but their combined story is one of the most compelling and popular in Warcraft lore. Sylvanas will be at the core of this summer’s expansion of the game. Her importance has grown over the years, ever since the days of the Lich King. She has quite a following. It is difficult to decide whether she is just very driven, or thoroughly evil. The more you read about her, the more you realize how calculatingly evil she can be. Some might argue her priority is for her people to live on, but at her very core, she only seems to care about her own survival. She is driven and powerful, a true badass female character, and she’s also a total hottie (imagine Lady Death, but irrevocably evil with near-zero redeeming qualities). For those who do not know Warcraft, Sylvanas was a Blood Elf, a benevolent race that suffered a great catastrophe when Arthas Menethil unleashed an undead plague on the land. Sylvanas defended her homeland against the undead scourge. She fought Arthas in single combat and was defeated. Rather than simply killing her, Arthas turned Sylvanas into a subservient undead creature. She eventually regained her freedom, but life is now forever denied to her. She eventually became the queen of the Forsaken, undead creatures that retained their personality and intellect, just like her. Sylvanas eventually rose to take the role of Warchief of the entire Horde: the collected “evil” races of Azeroth, and the sworn enemies of the Alliance races (humans, dwarves, gnomes, etc.).
Battle for Azeroth follows Sylvanas’s betrayal of the Alliance king, Varian Wrynn, during the opening battle against the demonic legion where a shaky pact between the Alliance and the Horde came undone when she withdrew her troops from the battlefield. King Varian gave his life while single-handedly facing the demonic armies to protect the retreat of his suddenly outmatched Alliance forces.
The reunion of the Windrunner sisters was highly expected since the events of Legion. So, this comic book will appeal not only to Sylvanas groupies, but also to most fans looking for a primer before tackling Battle for Azeroth.
The comic featuring Jana is just as intense, and it provides interesting background on the troubled mage. She disappeared during the events in Legion, and fans can now reconnect. It’s obvious she will play a role in Battle for Azeroth and the comic book is a good primer for things to come.
The comic book on Magni is the most bittersweet, touching on matters of family and regrets. It’s also probably the one closest to the events about to unfold in Battle for Azeroth. Like the Jana book, it is shorter by several pages compared to the Windrunner book, and even though it is the second one in the series of three, it feels like the last one, tantalizing us about what’s to come in Battle for Azeroth.
All in all, I really enjoyed these freebies. I wish they were actually printed, so that I could collect them along with my other Warcraft comic books. I don’t know if there will be more Warcraft comics in the future—printed or electronics—but Blizzard has just released a preview for animated shorts soon to be released. With the recent publishing of the prequel novel, Before the Storm, the release of these three prequel comics, and the upcoming animated shorts, it’s obvious there is no shortage of material for fans looking for a Warcraft fiction fix between their gaming sessions.
Titles: Battle for Azeroth Comics series – Jaina Reunion (#1), Magni The Speaker (#2), Windrunner Three Sisters (#3)
Artists: Linda Cavallini and Emanuelle Tenderini (#1), Suqling (#2), Antonio Bifulco (#3)
Writers: Andrew Robinson (#1), Matt Burns (#2), Christie Golden and Andrew Robinson (#3)