The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal (#3) by Clint McElroy

Published: 14th July 2020Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 First Second
Illustrator: Carey Pietsch
Pages: 272
Format: Graphic Novel
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Star

START YOUR ENGINES, friends, as we hit the road again with Taako, Magnus and Merle, the beloved agents of chaos from the #1 New York Times Bestselling books The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins and The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited.

Our boys have gone full-time at the Bureau of Balance, and their next assignment is a real thorny one: apprehending The Raven, a master thief who’s tapped into the power of a Grand Relic to ransack the city of Goldcliff. Local life-saver Lieutenant Hurley pulls them out of the woods, only to throw them headlong into the world of battle wagon racing, Goldcliff’s favorite high-stakes low-legality sport and The Raven’s chosen battlefield. Will the boys and Hurley be able to reclaim the Relic and pull The Raven back from the brink, or will they get lost in the weeds?

Based on the beloved blockbuster podcast where three brothers and their dad play a tabletop RPG in real time, The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal has it all: blossoming new friendships, pining for outlaw lovers, and a rollicking race you can root for!

The third graphic novel of The Adventure Zone podcast adaptation is as wonderful as the audio episodes it’s representing. This was my favourite arc of the podcast and seeing it come to life on the page with stunning illustrations and the humour and charm of the character dialogue is fantastic.

My favourite thing is at the start of the book there is a fantastic game board where you can catch up on what happened previously. With +1 and -1 consequences for certain events and a fun and informative way of reminding readers what has happened it is an incredibly clever addition that doesn’t take away from the incoming story but it adds a whole lot of extra entertainment.

The story combines Petals to the Metal arc as well as Moonlighting episodes once more. It’s a great way to combine the interlude episodes because they have a lot of important plot, and it’s a great frame for the narrative to have. Once again Pietsch is a master at including visual references from the podcast as well as creating incredible illustrations for the spectacular and creative narrative Griffin has created.

The standards of the novel series remain, each time a character is introduced they have a mini ID chart telling us about their race, class, and proficiencies like a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet but my favourite thing is the proficiencies change each time and are relevant to the scene at hand or are used to tell you a bit more about their character, always with the Pietsch humour attached.

The depiction of the battle racers and the action of the entire race was full of drama and action, often no words were needed as Pietsch captures facial expressions, and action incredibly well. It’s not all action though as the McElroy humour and the hilarious, weird, and sometimes strange moments from the podcast are included. There are also heartfelt moments that are beautifully conveyed and the alterations to the podcast are fantastic as it brings a more bittersweet moment of hope and rectifies previous miscalculations when it was a more free form storyline.

There’s the usual mystery and intrigue around the B.O.B and the mystery Red Robes which furthers the larger plot and it all fits together seamlessly for a well-rounded story and fantastic addition to this series.

What I love most about these adaptations is that the smallest thing reminds me of the magic of the podcast and it resurfaces my desire to relive it again for the first time because Griffin created such a beautiful and creative storyline and the boys as a group made a fantastic story. Seeing it transported into this graphic novel shows that while a few things have been changed and adapted for the format, the essence of the story is there, and these characters I’ve grown to love over the years come alive on the page. It’s a wonderful feeling to read these stories and be brought back to those moments alone listening to the audio and creating the story in my mind. The fact the book provokes the same feeling and emotion is a test to Pietsch and the McElroy’s skill.

You can purchase The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

 Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust

The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited (#2) by Clint McElroy

Published: 16th July 2019Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 First Second
Illustrator: Carey Pietsch
Pages: 240
Format: Graphic Novel
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Star

In the second Adventure Zone graphic novel (adapted from the McElroy family’s wildly popular D&D podcast), we rejoin hero-adjacent sort-of-comrades-in-arms Taako, Magnus, and Merle on a wild careen through a D&D railroad murder mystery. This installment has a little of everything: a genius child detective, an axe-wielding professional wrestler, a surly wizard, cursed magical artifacts, and a pair of meat monsters.

You know, the usual things you find on a train.

I squealed and smiled and was in a delightful mess of joyous emotions as I read this story. This arc of the Adventure Zone story has some great characters and some of the best interactions. I have no doubt my enjoyment was heightened because I have also listened to The Adventure Zone podcast but I think even without that there is a lot of humour and a great story to get involved with. You don’t have to know the podcast and you don’t have to know D&D to enjoy this, there are character introductions so you are reacquainted with known characters from the first story, or introduces them if this is your first experience, but there’s also stat sheets and introduction for new characters as well. There are great meta jokes and the rules of new items and spells are integrated seamlessly into the design of the pages so you have context for actions and know about weapons and spells.

There is a connection to Murder on the Orient Express, as evident not only from the title but the great train mystery Griffin has laid out. The trio of heroes Taako, Magnus, and Merle all return as they continue the Bureau of Balance’s missions to collect the relics, this time trapped on a train with a small circle of suspects and a mystery to solve. This arc introduces some of the best characters, many are reoccurring and some are brilliant one offs.

A special mention of course has to go to Carey for her amazing artwork. Her interpretation of these characters is divine. I loved her depictions of characters like Angus, Jess and Jenkins, not to mention those at the Bureau. Angus McDonald brings all his sarcasm and cuteness to the page without losing any of his charm. The art is just as important as the story because Carey makes every movement, every background character or action count. The tiny details make it an absolute joy because not only is the story brilliant, but there is an entire other level of enjoyment from her bright, colourful, emotional illustrations. The detail is amazing, the Easter eggs to past and future campaigns/characters are there for podcast listeners and even those who haven’t listened to it get great details like other adventures happening in the background and fun details and jokes.

I actually love the changed ending. It gives a great sense of the bigger picture and the grander adventure that is yet to come while not taking away from the original story. It may be different than the podcast, but Clint has reworked scenes and it still fits with who these characters are. We get a better insight into who they are earlier on with some great intrigue and foreshadowing. At the end of the book there are once again stunning artwork by various fans, each with their own interpretations of the characters and various scenes. It is wonderful to see so many different styles and how each player has been interpreted.

I don’t think I can express enough how hilarious this story is. It is funny in book form and there are wonderfully humorous moments where they break the fourth wall and once again interact with Dungeon Master Griffin. The mystery is pretty good as well. There are clues and surprises and a few moments I had forgotten about from the podcast that I loved reliving again. One thing I find interesting reading these graphic novels having also experienced the podcast is not only knowing what comes next, but I know what lines were omitted and what other aspects have been altered for adaptability. It is amazing to see the work Clint has done to make the story flow even though Griffin had already made a fantastic story and plot, to see it be translated to beautifully to the page is amazing.

You can purchase The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

 WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust