I am a complete sucker for a book based on the game franchises that I enjoy. I have read all the Assassin’s Creed books, the Gears of War ones, and many more. But, for my money, if ever there was a game series that was gagging for the old book treatment, it has to be the Diablo series of games.
With the care that Blizzard have poured into the back story and wider lore of the games, surely there has to be room for a book or two to be squeezed out. Well, it appears that Titan Books agree, as they have launched a graphic novel with a title that just trips off the tongue – Diablo: Legends of the Barbarian Bul-Kathos.
Written by John Arcudi and Geraldo Borges, I guess the question that I need to answer here is this – is the end result worthy of the source material, or are we better off just firing up a Diablo IV and battering some evil minions? Well, come with me to the dawn of Sanctuary and let’s see what we can find…
Now, the first thing to look at is the style of the book, and the art on display here is very good indeed. As you’d expect from a game about the mighty barbarians, every muscle and sinew is on full display. Especially on Bul-Kathos himself, who looks like he would walk down a beach and kick sand in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face without any trouble at all.
Blood, guts, magic, violence, tender moments – they are all portrayed beautifully in this book, and the way that everything flows from panel to panel is very impressive indeed. As far as the presentation goes, especially with the hardback cover complete with a fantastic portrait of old Bul-Kathos himself, it looks the part and will sit proudly on the shelf.
The story is an interesting one as well. Now, I have to be a bit careful here, as I don’t want to spoil things for potential readers, but I have to mention something about the narrative. I’ll skirt around things, but at the start of the book, Bul-Kathos has two children, twins; a son and a daughter. One of them is dutiful, and stays in the village to help out with the business of the barbarians. But the other isn’t quite so good, falling under the influence of Lillith, Daughter of Hatred, and big bad of the latest Diablo game, Diablo IV. As you can imagine, this doesn’t go down too well with the patriarch of the barbarians. The story of what happens next, and how the barbarians came to be in constant conflict with Lillith, is explained in the pages of the book.
The way that the narrative unfolds is very good, whilst the pacing is pretty breathless as well, with characters lurching from crisis to crisis, reacting believably. What is good to see, and what keeps you turning the pages, is how the story flows through the panels, the barely contained violence on display in almost every one. It isn’t the longest book, and on a personal level, I would rather have read this story in a traditional novel, using the power of my imagination to see the battles, the magic and so on that are portrayed on the page. That is however a personal preference, and I can certainly see the attraction in the way that the action is shown and drawn. The issue though is that the book, as a graphic novel, is pretty short. In fact, it is about the work of fifteen minutes to read it from start to finish.
In a nice touch though, the concluding parts of Diablo: Legends of the Barbarian Bul-Kathos are full of a series of concept sketches, showing how the characters and story were planned out. This adds a little bit of interest after the story has finished. Being able to see how the characters progress from rough sketches to the finished article does give us a peek behind the curtain.
All in all, Diablo: Legends of the Barbarians Bul-Kathos from Titan Books is a quality product. It tells a great story using brilliant artwork, rarely making any mis-steps on the way. If you like a barbarian, or Diablo, then give this book a whirl. If not, it is just a very good graphic novel in its own right…
Huge thanks go out to Titan Books for providing us with Diablo: Legends of the Barbarian Bul-Kathos for review. Grab a copy for yourself from Titan Books themselves for £19.99.