Let me put this right up front: I am a massive fan of Munchkin. I own the original version of the card game (with all the misprints and weird rules that have since been fixed and updated) and all the expansions for it, plus a bunch of the other versions. I also have the awesome board game and its expansion.
Which means I was excited about BOOM! Studio’s new Munchkin ongoing series to an inordinate degree. So I suppose this sense of disappointment is to be expected.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t like The Phantom Menace. I’m not swearing off the entire franchise because it’s been ruined for me forever. This is more like X-Men 3: The Last Stand. It had all the pieces to be awesome — but somehow wasn’t.
Let’s get into details. Some mild spoilers ahead.
For those who aren’t in the know, Munchkin is an immensely successful card game parodying Dungeons & Dragons: you play an adventurer, but without all that pesky role-playing that got in the way of killing things and cashing in. It’s filled with jokes and puns and ridiculous weapons. There’s now 16 different styles of the game mocking genres like superheroes, zombies, and kung fu. Plus board games, accessories, smart phone apps…
It’s no surprise that someone would try their hand at turning the game into a comic book. Back in December 2014, BOOM! Studios Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon announced Munchkin would be an ongoing series that would let fans “explore this world, beyond what it says on the cards.” This first issue has four different stories, and anyone who buys one of the first printings gets an exclusive card for the game bundled with it.
The first story in the book is “What is a Munchkin?” Written by Tom Siddell (Gunnerkrigg Court) and drawn by Mike Holmes (Bravest Warriors), this serves as a bit of an intro for those not as familiar with the games (killing and loot, loot and killing) plus it attempts to explain why all these inept, ill-equipped adventurers are venturing into a place filled with lethal monsters, traps, and gazebos in the first place.
It’s cute, and is a good attempt to blend a bunch of explanation into the story (much like I tried to do four paragraphs ago). But like most attempts, it falls thin at being both a compelling intro to the world and a fulfilling story on its own.
Next, Siddell and Holmes serve up “Humans Got No Class,” an in-joke to a pun that appears in every edition of the game (if you aren’t a wizard or warrior or something you have no class). Again, it’s more game explanation, telling the reader they can pick up classes while they play, swapping from boring human to something extraordinary.
The framing story has a guy named Dave lazily following a team of grand adventurers, kind of detached and distracted by trivialities while the others strive and orate. Even when they explain to him what he can become he doesn’t really seem to care.
I’m not sure if it’s a joke on the game — classless humans are generally at a big disadvantage and considered lame — or it’s riffing on the experience of playing a game with one person who refuses to get into the spirit of things. Either way, it’s the weakest of the pieces.
Third up: “Ready For Anything” by Jim Zub (Skullkickers) and Rian Sygh (Stolen Forest). Okay, this is more like it. Not only does it feature Spyke, the red-haired Munchkin that appears in tons of game art, but he also comes decked out in appropriate gear like the Horny Helmet and Boots of Butt-Kicking.
This is a full-on what-would-it-be-like story in the Munchkin world, with its associated lack of logic and any desire to care about things beyond precious loot. “Oh, great,” says Spyke to his companion who had groused about the point of it all. “You’re one of THOSE… the ones who need a ‘mission.'”
This one is full of pleasing Munchkin cameos and references. The only sad part is that it involves a sense of gleeful evil at the backstabbing part of the game that seems out of place. That might be game style though. At my table instead of taking pleasure at the downfall of others — “Ha! You got eaten by a Potted Plant? Good riddance!” — we prefer a more coldly bureaucratic evil — “Sorry that I turned that goldfish into a Gargantuan Enraged Goldfish From Hell. You were just too close to winning and I really wanted your Unnatural Axe.”
The final story is a one-page bit of awesomeness written and illustrated by John Kovalic, the mad genius behind Dork Tower and who did nearly all the art in every Munchkin game. I can’t even tell you the title of the story without potentially giving it away so I’ll leave with saying it’s just perfect Munchkin.
While disappointed at this first installment in the ongoing series, I’m interested in where it’s going next. It’s like they’ve got the origin story out of the way now, and next they can really dig into exploring this hilarious world.
Not much here for the uninitiated reader, but if you’re a Munchkin fan, be sure to pick it up, even if it’s just to get the special limited edition card. After all, having a card that no one else has is very, very Munchkin.
Munchkin #1 is available January 28, 2015.
Disclosure: BOOM! Studios provided GeekDad with an advance review copy of the comic.