Friday, February 27, 2004

Knights Of The Dinner Table: Black Hands #2 - A Review

Written by: Jolly Blackburn.
Penciled by: Jolly Blackburn
Inked by: N/A
Colored by: N/A
Lettered by: N/A
Editor: Jolly Blackburn
Publisher: Kenzer And Company

Knights of the Dinner Table is a familiar book to most followers of gamer humor comics.
The set up of the book is simple; a rotating cast of different groups of up to five friends sit around a table playing role-playing games and hilarity ensues. Far from being filled with in-jokes, the books are usually accessible to people who haven’t sat down to a good game of D&D on a Friday night once in their lives and the humor is more dependant on character and personality than on knowing why throwing a portable hole into a bag of holding is a bad thing. (And in case you’re curious… it’s a bit like “crossing the streams” in ‘Ghostbusters’.)

This issue, the second in an irregular published series, centers upon the gaming group known as The Black Hands. Probably the worst group of gamers in this world’s Muncie, Indiana, The Black Hands spend just as much time fighting each other as the monsters and non-player characters in their game. Probably more. The regular team consists of…

• Weird Pete – Owner of the local game store, former game designer, licensed Game Master and scheming opportunist both as a player and a business man.
• Nitro – The regular Game Master. Ex-Army grunt who has had his GM credentials pulled numerous times and his reputation questioned, due to incidents involving getting people lost in the sewer during a live-action game and blowing up a campus building.
• Gordo – probably the best player in the group, but his fondness for playing pixie fairies (the weakest race in the game) and female characters make everyone but the other Black Hands WAY too uncomfortable to play with him.
• Newt – The newbie. Lives to get cool magic items and annoy Stevil.
• Stevil – Jerk, whiner and Weird Pete’s usual partner in crime. Lives to screw over Newt’s characters.

The plot of this book centers upon the Black Hands plans for a week without Nitro, who is going to a gamer’s convention. Weird Pete steps up and offers to run the group through a game of Hacknoia; a game of espionage, spies and intrigue. Joining the group for this one night is Bob; one of Weird Pete’s employees and member of the gaming group The Knights of the Dinner Table.

This is one of the funnier stories done in any of the volumes of this book in recent memory. Of particular note is the portly Weird Pete’s comment that he is on the Atkins Diet (“Lost nearly two pounds in the last month eating nothing but chicken wings, pork rinds and cheese omelets. Best darn diet I ever tried!”) and the laugh-out-loud inducing line “What are we going to do now, Stevil? We got a faceless corpse in my hotel room!”

The art’s not worth discussing much as Blackburn himself admits to being a less-than-gifted artist, whose talent as a writer and comedian more than made up for this fact when he originally sketched the characters as a back-up feature for various gaming magazines. That said, his sketchy style is not without its’ charm and is somehow appropriate to the “homespun” feel of his stories.

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