Dark Horse Comics continues the story began in Bioware’s blockbuster Dragon Age video games in “Dragon Age: Those Who Speak.” The story follows Alistair Theirin’s search for his father. The search takes the King of Ferelden into an evil empire, the Tevinter Imperium, where Alistair and his allies are taken captive by a former friend.
The “Dragon Age: Those Who Speak” collection from Dark Horse collects the three issue comic book series by David Gaider the lead writer of the hit games. Gaider’s involvement assures the story is part of the overall Dragon Age cannon, making the stories matter. Alexander Freed scripts the story giving on page words to Gaider’s plot. The writing pair is joined by artist Chad Hardin to complete the creative team.
The story does not rely on the reader having any prior knowledge of the Dragon Age world. Gaider and Freed build the story from Alistair’s planned assassination of a magistrate in an attempt to get revenge for his missing father. This revenge leads to the imprisonment of Alistair’s crew. Through the imprisonment of the cast, Gaider and Freed explore the depths of the characters. The quieter setting of the cells allows the writers to be more introspective through a series of flashbacks.
The idea of the comic series is to build upon the stories of the characters from the video games. Alistair’s story is advanced to a degree, but the real emotional drive in this comics series comes from Alistair’s companion, the pirate captain Isabella.
Through her imprisonment and torture at the hands of a Qunari Priestess, Isabella is forced to confront her sordid past. Her history consists of being abandoned and sold into slavery by her mother. This led her to a career in piracy and her ascent to become Queen of the Eastern Seas where she is feared by all men. But as seen in her account of her past, her power did not always put her in charge. Poor choices led Isabella to be in debt that she can never escape. Facing the tragic past could be all that it takes for her to escape her confinement, but can she rise above the weight of her past mistakes?
The artwork of Hardin is sublime giving an exaggerated look while also maintaining the pace of the story. Through the layouts Hardin captures the narrative flow across the page maintaining a fast pace giving a high adventure feel to the book. The characters have a consistent look to them each showing their roll in the story. The pirates look like pirates with attire that sets them apart from the land lovers and the royalty have a noble feel.
The color work of Michael Atiyeh is consistent and bright. The palette fits the open air feel of the high seas and the outdoors portion of the book, but some of the mood of the story is lost in the bight colors during the darker scenes of the book.
“Dragon Age: Those Who Speak” will appeal to both fans of the video games as well as fans of pirate fantasy. While adding to the cannon of the video games Gaider, Freed and Hardin craft an accessible story with a compelling lead character in Isabella. The book looks great and is a well paced adventure with strong character moments.