Bonds of Brotherhood expands the Warcraft movie universe
After reading and reviewing Christie Golden’s movie prequel novel Warcraft: Durotan last month, I was really looking forward to the other half of the Warcraft movie’s prequel offerings. Where Durotan delved into the story of Durotan and his clan on Draenor, Warcraft: Bonds of Brotherhood takes a look at the early adventures of Prince Llane Wrynn, Anduin Lothar, and Medivh. Yes, I said Prince, not King. Written by Chris Metzen and Paul Cornell, the graphic novel is set way back before the events presented in the film and tells the story of how Llane became King — and that’s about all the spoilers you’re going to get out of me. Please note: This is a spoiler-free review.
But hey, how was the book?
If I’ve got one thing to criticize, it’s the cover. It’s a slapped-together tableau of characters from the Warcraft film, which wouldn’t be too much of an issue, except that Garona and Khadgar don’t actually appear in the book. Maybe they just wanted to make it clear that this is tied into the film universe, but I think there were probably better ways to convey that information while using the artists they had working on the interior art — because that art is pretty gorgeous.
There are six pencil artists listed in the credits of Brotherhood, and it kind of shows in the art, to a degree. It’s beautifully done, but sometimes I found myself getting confused as to which character was which. Since this is a movie prequel, I expected the familiar characters to look like the actors that portrayed them — that’s not so much the case, here. But compared to other graphic novels and comics that have come out from Blizzard, this is pretty high up in the ranks on art quality. Colors are vivid and clear, the inking is solid, and I think I’d like to see this team tackle something again in the future.
I hesitate to compare the story of the graphic novel to Durotan, because there’s a huge difference in what kind of story you can get away with in a print novel compared to a graphic novel. In a way, it’s the same kind of difference between what kind of story you can get away with in a never-ending MMO compared to a two hour film — you have to streamline the story in favor of visual action, and let the visuals tell the story more than the words. Show, don’t tell.
But I found myself having to take the same advice I gave people in my Durotan review — forget everything you already know about Warcraft. All of it. Once again, the movie universe has some pretty jarring changes to existing lore, and if you’re a lore aficionado, some of those changes are going to feel very strange. Relax, remember that this is a different version of that game we all know, love, and obsessively catalogue in our heads, and try to take in what you’re reading with an open mind.
Unfortunately, while Durotan managed to elegantly pull me in past the obvious changes and get me absorbed in this new version of a world I’m very familiar with, Brotherhood didn’t quite manage to do the same on first reading. As I said, there’s only so much story you can put in a graphic novel, and while the story in Brotherhood is fast paced and pretty exciting, it doesn’t quite get to the same emotional depth that I felt while reading Golden’s book. That’s not a failing of the storyteller or the artists — it’s just one of those challenges of trying to tell a massive story in comic format. It’s not an easy thing to do.
Despite that, it wasn’t a bad book — not by a long shot. Rather than expanding any of the film’s story, it rounds out the relationship between Llane, Medivh, and Lothar in their youth by telling the story of how Llane came to be King of Stormwind. Along with Llane’s tale, you get more of a sense of who Lothar is, and more moments with Medivh and his first explorations of the mysterious — and potentially dangerous — arts of fel magic.
I really appreciated how the book definitely rounds out Llane in particular as a character — he’s been present in Warcraft lore since the original RTS games, but we never really got a sense of his personality before. In Brotherhood, you start to understand just who Llane is, and see what kind of king he shaped up to be. He’s far more fleshed out in this graphic novel than he ever was in the original stories — and you get to meet Lady Taria, his eventual wife in the Warcraft film, and learn a little more about her as well.
Lothar’s story, and to a degree Medivh’s story as well, were both substantially different from the canon tales we’re familiar with. This isn’t the Lothar or the Medivh of The Last Guardian. These are two very different characters, but in reading the book, you get the sense that the feel of these characters is the same — the personality, the essence of who they are. It’s just the plain facts surrounding their existence that have changed — what kind of family they have and what they’ve done in their lives.
In other words, the raw essence is still there underneath it all, despite the obvious changes made to better serve the Warcraft cinematic universe. And just to reiterate, Brotherhood and Durotan very firmly take place in that cinematic canon — neither book has any tie in at all to the game world that we already know. Blizzard isn’t changing any canon lore here, they’re establishing a different branch of it.
That shift takes a little getting used to, but that’s not because it’s a bad shift — we aren’t dealing with poor writing here at all. It’s largely because the majority of us have been playing Warcraft in one form or another for a lengthy period of time, and we’ve got that game universe ingrained in our heads. Shaking us all out of it and getting us invested in a different vision of the world we know and love is a gigantic undertaking, and it’s not an easy task.
Brotherhood may not directly affect how anyone views the Warcraft movie, but it’s a good story that takes those characters from the film and fleshes out their pasts, without spoiling anything in the film itself. Like Durotan, it’s a good introductory read for Warcraft players that are preparing to go see the film — it helps get you out of the mindset of the game world and into the mindset of the cinematic world. It’s a different world, but it’s a good one — the story is tighter. There isn’t the massive weight of thousands of years of Azeroth’s history hanging over its shoulders, so it’s got room to breathe and simply be fun.
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