Christmas morning is a magical time that comes but once a year. Most people wake up and gather around the tree to tear open their gifts and see what Santa has brought them. I, on the other hand, spent my Christmas morning fighting monsters and stabbing my friends in the back for fun and profit. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was playing Munchkin! For those poor souls that haven’t been fortunate to play this amazing game, it is…amazing (shhhh, I haven’t had coffee yet). This week the Munchkin brand has finally expanded into comics with Munchkin #1.
I’m very pleased to say that the book lives up to the reputation of the game, which is saying quite a bit. One of the things that makes Munchkin such a massive fan favorite is the tongue in cheek sense of humor which takes swings at role-playing games, primarily D&D. This first issue is broken into three shorts, all of which maintain that humor, even in a more narrative setting. The first two are written by Tom Siddell with art by Mike Holmes and the third is written by Jim Zub with art by Rian Sygh.
The first short is almost an explanation of what Munchkin is about, as though a couple kids were reading the instruction book. It provides a great take on the ridiculous nature of roleplaying games in general and their alternate realm of danger and adventure. Of course, there are absolutely no consequences in real life and the characters know that. Mike Holmes’ art is keeping with the style of game artist John Kovalic, and at first I didn’t realize it was a different person, though on further inspection, Holmes’ art is a bit more refined. There isn’t much storytelling in this particular short, as it is intended to read more like an instruction manual (albeit a really funny one) than an actual story. This is one of the great things about comics. Having pages of an issue tell no story at all, and still be totally worthwhile is something that is really unique to the medium.
The second tale is one of an adventuring group, with a particularly weak link in their group. While everyone else has amazing characters and embraces the idea that they can be anything they want to be in their mental universe, the weak link seems to embrace the mundane and mediocre. Anyone who has game mastered for a while knows the pain involved with players like this. As the party runs through the dungeon, it provides for some great action while the dialogue is going on. I really like it when a writer and artist can provide this level of coordination so that the action and words work together, even when they aren’t directly related. And again, Tom Siddell demonstrates his understanding of the game’s sensibilities by matching the humor exactly.
The final short finds readers hot on the dungeon crawl with Spyke and a “noob.” Those familiar with the game will recognize Spyke and much of his gear from the Munchkin core game. Personally, I’m a big fan of his “Boots of Butt-Kicking.” Spyke is trying to explain how a Munchkin dungeon crawl works to his less experienced companion, who happens to be less than prepared for the dangers that await him. While keeping the same general feel and style as the game and the previous two stories, Rian Sygh has a much cleaner art style that is a little more typical of all-ages comics. I would have to say that while kids may not get all of the jokes that are in this issue, it’s pretty kid friendly, despite actually being aimed at adults. This story also gets at the most accurate element of Munchkin; betrayal, backstabbing, and the benefits of doing so. Have I mentioned how much I love this game?
I have to admit that the reason I bought this issue is that it came with a free Munchkin card. Given how much I enjoy playing the game, it seemed like a good deal to me. Now that I’ve read the issue, I’m even more pleased with my decision. I’ve got a new card for the game and I’ve had some really great laughs, which is all I could have asked for. 5/5 Death Stars