Best Shots Review: VOX MACHINA ORIGINS II #1 'an Engagingly Spooky Mystery Set in a Gorgeously Illustrated Realm' (9/10)

CRITICAL ROLE: VOX MACHINA ORIGINS II #1
Credit: Olivia Samson/MSASSYK/Ariana Maher (Dark Horse Comics)
Credit: Fiona Staples (Dark Horse Comics)

Vox Machina Origins II #1
Story by Matthew Mercer
Written by Jody Houser
Art by Olivia Samson and MSassyK
Lettering by Ariana Maher
Published by Dark Horse Comics
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10

Credit: Olivia Samson/MSASSYK/Ariana Maher (Dark Horse Comics)

The beloved heroes of Vox Machina return for a new prequel adventure in this week’s Vox Machina Origins II #1, the first in a six-issue series that expands on the legend of the beloved original Critical Role crew. Based on the wildly successful Dungeons & Dragons Twitch show, Vox Machina Origins II delves into the lives of the legendary heroes before the events of the show. This is a true prequel rather than an adaptation, centered on barbarian warrior Grog Strongjaw’s past and the introduction of a fan-favorite character to the Vox Machina crew, and writer Jody Houser does a stellar job making the story both accessible for newcomers to the world of Critical Role and engaging for long-time Critters alike.

Credit: Olivia Samson/MSASSYK/Ariana Maher (Dark Horse Comics)

Vox Machina Origins II sits in an odd spot between adaptation and fresh fantasy tale, building new introductions for much-beloved characters with Critical Role dungeonmaster Matthew Mercer. Houser and returning artist Olivia Samson navigate the space with ease, fully embodying the voices and quirks of a cast and world that has hundreds of thousands of fans around the world — no small task for any adaptation. Elven twins Vax’ilden and Vex’ahlia are delightfully familiar in their surliness, and Samson has a fantastic eye for little details in body language and facial expressions that fully embody the spirit the players bring to their characters on the show.

Credit: Olivia Samson/MSASSYK/Ariana Maher (Dark Horse Comics)

Colorist MSassyK’s work in particular is stellar; often high fantasy tales lean on darker, moodier color schemes, flattening out the tone and making a dark night indistinguishable from a dreary dungeon. MSassyK’s vibrant colors and use of shadow and light are an excellent complement to Houser’s script and Samson’s art, particularly in scenes that begin to lean into the supernatural — the texture transition between an unsettling nightmare that wakes Grog in the dead of night and the quiet, darkened room his compatriots are snoozing away in makes the sudden moment pop.

Whether you’re a Critter from day one or a fantasy fan on the lookout for a new comic book to read, Vox Machina Origins II #1 is worth checking out. Though some familiarity with the characters of Vox Machina is helpful — Houser drops us right into the action, and goes light on the introduction — it’s not vital to get a sense of the characters or the story in this debut issue, nor is it necessary to have read the first Vox Machina Origins series. Vox Machina Origins II stands as a strong story in its own right, an engagingly spooky mystery set in a gorgeously illustrated fantasy realm.

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