The first volume of this series was something that I wanted to like more than I actually did. A thoroughly irreverent take on some traditional fantasy tropes, its wiseass sensibility only took it so far. Unless you’re very, VERY good, then at some point you’ll actually need to start adding some actual substance to the style that is the foundation of your narrative. For volume two, writer Jim Zub has decided that the way to proceed is to add even MORE style along with a tiny bit of depth as well.
In short, the dwarf and the big guy are being carted off to the capital city of Urbia to receive their reward for saving the town of Mudwich back in vol. 1. If you guessed that the six issues collected here don’t involve our protagonists living the high life without a care in the world, then give yourself a gold star. They find themselves not only framed for the murder of the nobles they were dining with, but also mixed up with the local thieves guild and a cabal of foul-mouthed faries determined to bring back nature at the expense of most of its inhabitants.
The material still isn’t quite at the level it should be, but this was a step in the right direction. With the various factions involved in the conflict, the protagonists have a larger group to interact with, which leads us to a greater variety of insults, beatings, stabbings, murders, poisonings and resurrections. Sometimes more than one at a time. Though the characters don’t have much more depth beyond their one-dimensional personalities, we at least have the mysteries of the dwarf’s bull-god visions and the big guy’s ability to speak the language of the forest to ponder as well. The last page of the main story also provides a lead-in to the next arc, but after reading this I think it’s worth buying without the incentive.
We’re also treated to a single-issue anthology titled “Four Tavern Tales,” featuring stories written by Chris Sims, Brian Clevinger, Ray Fawkes and Adam Warren, and illustrated by a talented variety of artists. The stories themselves are very much “style over substance” like the main series, but that’s fine for their five-to-eight-page length. These were a nice diversion, and I’d welcome more issues like this in the future.