Welcome to Athas.
It’s a harsh and barren place that burns under the perpetual glare of the crimson sun, ruled by the ancient and immortal sorcerer-kings that were responsible for its desolation in the first place.
Written by Alex Irvine, Dark Sun: Ianto’s Tomb offers a glimpse into this post-apocalyptic Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) setting through the eyes of Grudvik, an ex-gladiator from the city of Tyr.
Arrested on trumped up charges, the Mul (a uniquely Athasian race) escapes and flees into the desert, only to be confronted by a canny hunter named Aki, who co-opts him into what becomes an adventure of epic proportions.
While the setup only manages to plod along in the first 20 or so pages, the art serves to do what the story initially fails at – painting a near perfect picture of the sparse, sand-filled wastes and the fierce struggle for survival that is life on Athas thanks to Peter Burgting.
It’s a brutal world after all – no place for the squeamish – and the panels reflect that. Characters crush, kill and maim with abandon, but in keeping with D&D’s family friendly sensibilities, the bulk of the violence is tastefully masked (and takes place off screen).
The story picks up later, when political intrigues and an ancient legacy wend its way into the plot and the search for Ianto’s Tomb begins in earnest. That’s when Irvine’s understated style begins to soar towards a satisfying pay-off.
Like it’s core campaign counterpart, Ianto’s Tomb also features bonuses for D&D players.
There’s encounter maps and scenarios aplenty, so if you’re an avid dice roller and you’re keen to play out Grudvik’s journey, it’s in there.
All in all a great read for fans of gritty, low magic settings where strength of arms, wit and guile, rather than the size of your fireballs matter.
Few comics have managed to swing it better.