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It's the Adventure Zone!
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The Adventure Zone is the graphic novel adaptation of the fantasy-RPG podcast of the same name, written by the McElroy Brothers (Justin, Travis, and Griffin) and their father Clint, and illustrated by Carey Pietsch. The novel roughly follows the podcast's first campaign, The Adventure Zone: Balance, with minor changes and legally necessary name alterations. The story follows human fighter Magnus Burnsides, Elven wizard Taako, and Dwarven cleric Merle Highchurch as they take a job from Merle's cousin, Bogard Stoneseeker, to deliver supplies to the nearby town of Haverdale. When the delivery goes south, the three adventurers track down Bogard and find themselves embroiled in a conflict larger than they expected.

The books so far:

  • Here There Be Gerblins (2018)
  • Murder on the Rockport Limited! (2019)
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  • Petals to the Metal (2020)
  • Crystal Kingdom (projected 2021)


The graphic novel contains the following tropes:

  • Adaptational Early Appearance:
    • Carey Fangbattle, Boyland and Brad can be spotted in the cannon hanger at the end of Here There Be Gerblins, though in the original podcast Carey and Boyland don't appear for another three arcs and Brad for even longer. Carey is also named in Murder on the Rockport Limited as having discovered Leeman Kessler's dead body.
    • Artemis Sterling, lord of Eversummer, briefly appears at the end of Murder on the Rockport Limited. He doesn't appear in the podcast until The Suffering Game.
    • An action figure of Jeff Angel briefly appears in Murder on the Rockport Limited. He first appears in the podcast in the Live Boston Stunt Spectacular, which was released during the run of The Suffering Game.
    • In the podcast, Hurley and Sloane were revived as dryads during the final arc, protecting innocents from The Hunger. In Petals to the Metal, we see them come back to life much sooner, protecting someone that had stolen battlewagon plans from the Hammerheads.
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  • Adaptational Jerkass: In the GN, Barry Bluejeans is the one responsible for Bogard's outrage. Regardless of his intentions, this makes him look worse than his original characterization in the podcast.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: In Here There Be Gerblins, Taako displays some uncharacteristic initial discomfort with killing and seems irritated (rather than amused) by Griffin's joking assertion that the goblins he killed were innocent. Magnus and Merle spend some time trying to alert the citizens of Haverdale to the growing flames, rather than immediately running for cover. And ultimately, all three are genuinely dismayed by the obliteration of Haverdale, rather than treating the entire ordeal as a joke.
  • Adaptation Distillation: several things are removed during the transition from podcast to graphic novel, most likely for timing and pacing issues.
    • Renee the Jackhammer Robot is absent, and instead it is Taako, via Merle, who knocks Spider Bryan into the pit.
    • The entire scene with the slavers/scavengers is removed. Because of this, it is Barry who incidentally enrages Bogard rather than Kurtze, the young orcish boy the adventurers rescue from the slavers.
    • In the podcast, the three adventurers spend several weeks at the Bureau before the events of Murder On the Rockport Limited. In the novel, they receive their second mission the same day they are inoculated, and their roommate Robbie/Pringles goes unseen, as he's simply not in the room when they arrive (although much of his stuff is).
    • The entire infiltration sequence of the Hammerhead's headquarters is cut from Petals to the Metal, instead opting to Gilligan Cut from Magnus promising not to kill anyone to him kicking a dead body off a cliff.
  • And the Adventure Continues: the three adventures have been hired and inoculated by the Bureau of Balance, and suddenly are able to understand the previously-censored words. The Director stands in front of the Voidfish, ready to give them a proper introduction to the Bureau.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
    • Griffin appears in the graphic novel as the Dungeon Master, the same role he filled in the original podcast, which all the characters acknowledge as an omnipotent rule-master. He serves the same role as a Dungeon Master would in a standard game of D&D, by offering difficulties on challenges, telling the heroes what skills they should use, and providing suggestions and commentary. The first book lists one of his proficiencies as "Podcasting", a reference to the original format of the story. And to top it off, he literally breaks the walls of the art, as every panel he appears in has his arms or head poking out of the panel and into the white space between.
    • When reintroduced to Carey in Murder on the Rockport Limited, Magnus remarks he remembers her from "the first book." He also mentions that they'll remember Graham... only to say later that "in 8 pages" they'll just remember him as the "Juicy Wizard".
    • Angus McDonald says that they were so distracted in page 75, that they didn't notice Jenkins executing his plan.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: a strange, recursive version of this trope. In one episode of the podcast, Clint mentions that they should get the brothers' "little play friend", Lin-Manuel Miranda, to guest star on the podcast.note  During the press tour for the first graphic novel, Miranda filled in and played Taako at a reading in New York when Justin was unable to attend.
    • In-Universe Griffin states that if they were ever to make an audiobook, Yahvvie would be played by Kelsey Grammer. He also supplies that Barry Bluejeans looks like the exact midpoint between John Goodman and John Stamos: Tom Arnold.
  • Demoted to Extra: Johann in the Moonlighting arc had a considerable role, being the one to introduce the trio in how the void fish works. Compare that to the first volume of the graphic novel and he appears in three panels and only has two lines.
  • Dungeon Master: Griffin reprises his role as DM from the podcast, although in a reduced form, essentially offering suggestions, rules, and, most commonly, commentary on the goings-on of the heroes.
  • The Elevator from Ipanema: Parodied at the end of the first volume, especially considering that it's a graphic novel, a medium without any audio component. While the main trio and Killian are waiting in the elevator, the song plays which causes the three to start singing along with the song, which sets off Killian.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: When Magnus says the whole town is destroyed, Taako starts ranting about how they've seen destroyed towns before, nothing that a fundraiser can't solve... And then they get out of the well and realize that Haverdale wasn't destroyed. It was glassed.
  • Fastball Special: Taako uses Mage Hand to launch Merle at Spider Bryan, knocking both of them into the pit.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Chapter 8 of Murder on the Rockport Limited makes it a lot more apparent that there's something going on behind the Director and the Red Robes.
    • When Lucretia is doing her welcome speech for the adventurers, she turns around, realizes who they are, and pauses for a bit before continuing.
    • In Petals to the Metal, the party comment that Merle can't tell his arms apart from each other because "they look exactly the same!"
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In Murder on the Rockport Limited, as the Director and Killian tell the boys about the circumstances leading up to their mission, they roll out a grid mat and pull out a batch of miniatures.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Merle has nearly talked Bogard down, until Barry tries to take the gauntlet, which causes Bogard to lose control.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: In the podcast, real-world Motel 6 spokesman Tom Bodett is a character in the Murder on the Rockport Limited arc. The comic refers to him solely as "Thomas", though one of his proficiencies is listed (per the real Bodett's catchphrase) as "leaving a light on for you".
  • Properly Paranoid: Taako freaks out when he learns that the Bureau of Balance has obtained zero grand relics without them and wants to learn more about what the Director is keeping secret for them. At the time, it seemed a little hostile from his part, but people who know the full story would know that he has a lot more to be mad at her considering what she was keeping away from them.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After Taako learns that the Bureau of Balance had acquired none of the grand relics before they came along, he calls out the Director, saying that he only joined because he had the impression that the Bureau knew what it was doing, when it's now obvious that it's keeping secrets. He relents when Killian pleads with him to leave his questions until the morning.
  • Retcon: In the podcast, Taako is subject to some Early Installment Weirdness—during the party's first visit to Leon the Artificer, he's simply too dumb to follow the Fantasy Gashapon's simple instructions. This clashed terribly with Taako's later shrewd cynicism. In the Murder on the Rockport Limited novel, Taako still operates the Gashapon incorrectly, but he's being deliberately obtuse in order to irritate Leon.
    • Numerous hints to future plot points have been added to earlier arcs, such as the Director reacting to Taako having Lup's Umbra staff in Murder on the Rockport Limited and the Gaia Sash recognizing Merle in Petals to the Metal.
  • Sequel Hook: the first novel ends with the words "The Adventure Continues in The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited!".
  • Shirtless Scene: There's a panel that's simply the boys changing into their outfits, exposing Magnus's detailed chest and also showing a bit of Taako's as well.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The podcast began with most of the trappings of the Dungeons & Dragons 5e Starter Kit and continued to use Faerûn as its setting after that. Word of God is that, while Wizards of the Coast gave the comic carte blanche to use the original names, the McElroys chose to change some things so that their own takes on D&D material wouldn't get conflated with the official versions.
    • Merle's cousin Gundren Rockseeker becomes Bogard Stoneseeker.
    • Yeemick, the gerblin who tries to overthrow Klarg/G'nash (see below), becomes Yahvvie.
    • Klarg the bug/hugbear becomes G'nash.
    • Phandalin becomes Haverdale, and Wave Echo Cave becomes the Cavern of Dangling Death.
    • Eversummer instead of Neverwinter.
    • Some spells get this treatment as well. Detect Magic, for instance, is renamed Discern Magicks. Interestingly, the spell Revivify, which resurrects the very recently deceased, is renamed Spare the Dying, which exists in D&D as a cantrip that can cure mortal wounds, but not resurrect.
    • In D&D canon, the Lord of Neverwinter is named Dagult Neverember. In the podcast, official D&D canon is well out the window by the time a character with that title shows up, and no such character appears in the podcast version of Murder on the Rockport Limited. When the arc was adapted into comics, the McElroys included a scene with their Lord of Neverwinter character, Artemis Sterling.
    • Non-D&D instances follow:
      • Averted, intriguingly, with Fantasy Costco, which is still named as such.
      • Garfield is an interesting case: the podcast maintains deliberate ambiguity over whether he's "the lasagna cat", and the comic edges in favor of this by giving him a visibly orange hue and protruding ears under his robes.
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