REVIEW: ‘Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins I,’ Vol #1

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins I returns to comic bookshelves in trade paperback form this month. The inspiration for the series comes directly from Critical Role‘s first campaign: a weekly live-streamed Dungeons & Dragons game that first aired March 2015 and ended October 2017.  Despite 115 episodes and 373 hours of gameplay in their first campaign, there are still untold stories prior to the live-stream. The group of prominent voice actors first played together in a 2012 home game without knowing the campaign would grow into what it is today.

Published by Dark Horse Comics, the six-issue series ran from September 2017 to April 2018 and covered the humble beginnings of Vox Machina as a group during those home games. The story comes from the mind of Matthew Mercer, the group’s dungeon master, and Matthew Colville who also receives credit for the script. The characters are created by the cast of Critical Role: Ashley Johnson, Marisha Ray, Taliesin Jaffe, Travis Willingham, Sam Riegel, Laura Bailey, and Liam O’Brien. Olivia Samson provides the primary art while Chris Northrop provides colors and letters.

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins I opens with two members of the eventual Vox Machina, Vax’ildan (Liam O’Brien) and Vex’ahlia (Laura Bailey) in a swamp outside of Stilben. The twin half-elves are investigating a curse that has allegedly overtaken the land. There is much speculation to what is afflicting the townspeople and what is leading to them sacrificing children.  As their investigation deepens, the duo meets another half-elf named Keyleth (Marisha Ray) who is also searching for answers in this forsaken land. Together, they learn that there might be more to the curse than meets the eye.

The next couple of arcs in the story follow a similar pattern. Each of our destined saviors of Tal’Dorei is investigating the curse through their own means. Grog (Travis Willingham) and Scanlan (Sam Riegel) come upon the curse by happenstance while they are retrieving treasure for a client. Keyleth and Tiberius are employed by a shady individual to investigate stolen items. Their paths eventually converge and the group must stop the ensuing danger and save the people of Stilben.

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins I is filled with twists and turns that will keep readers entertained throughout. What really sets this comic series apart is its intermixing of the Critical Role campaign with the comic medium. Fans of the live-stream will enjoy the Easter eggs, one-liners, and foreshadowing sprinkled throughout the volume. Further, Dungeons & Dragons fans will appreciate the uses of spells and the addition of overhead maps that show different character’s positions much in the way that you would see in your own game at home. It is very easy for the reader to imagine how these situations could have panned out if this storyline was streamed.

The trade paperback also includes additional goodies that make it well worth the purchase even if you already own all six issues from the original run. The end of the volume has a map of Stilben for use in your own campaign or to really immerse yourself in what Vox Machina is traversing through. Further, Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins I provides character stats and abilities on the main villains of the volume to use in your own Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Finally, there is an entire section dedicated to a sketchbook. In the sketchbook, readers will enjoy reading about the process it took to create the cover art and character designs from the series along with reading commentary from editor F.  Avedon Arcadio Barrera II.

Overall, I think the $19.99 price for Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins I is more than worth the price. With Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins II halfway through it’s run, it is the perfect time to pull the trigger. Fans who are following the series in its second volume will get even more than they received the first time around while new fans will be able to get caught up for the climax of Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins II. 

Rating: 5/5 Critters Consuming Comics

Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins I Vol.1

TL;DR

I think the $19.99 price for Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins I Vol. 1 is more than worth the price. With Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins II halfway through it’s run, it is the perfect time to pull the trigger.