Dragon Age began its story of Thedas back in 2009 with BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins. The newest comic series from Dark Horse, Dragon Age: Dark Fortress, is a tale rooted heavily in where it all began. In the first issue of the latest series, Fenris (whom we met in Dragon Age 2) returns following the Blue Wraith comics to team up with a small Inquisition group in an all-out assault against a fortress that holds unspeakable evil. The first issue begins reflecting back on the infamous betrayal against King Cailan, which we witnessed at the beginning of Origins, and continues with Fenris confronting his own past with his previous master, Danarius.
We have an exclusive first look at the first issue of the new Dark Fortress series from Dark Horse, beginning with a flashback to the betrayal of Fereldan’s king and the Grey Wardens in Ostagar:
The issue begins with the notorious moment Loghain turned traitor against the grey wardens, a decision that left Cailan dead and abandoned. Cailan was the son of Maric, Loghain’s friend and the former king of Fereldan, and the complicated history between the two provided a tumultuous undertone in the game and was further explored in the companion novel The Stolen Throne.
The issue continues with Ser Aaron waking up from his dream about the horrific turn of events that kickstarted Origins and brings us back into the present-day with Fenris, Marius, Francesca, and Tessa at camp preparing for the assault ahead against the Castellum Tenebris fortress in Tevinter:
In the third panel seen above, the group dynamic continues to shift from the events previously seen in Blue Wraith, with a Fenris that is more in line with how he eventually became towards the end of Dragon Age 2: more rooted in himself, confident in his identity as a free man (no longer a slave), and more open to letting people in. Some had an issue with how this character was portrayed in Blue Wraith because it heavily implied that he was abandoned by the friends he made in Kirkwall. This creative turn hit especially hard for those that romanced him because his romance is arguably the hardest but also incredibly rewarding for how much he opens up.
Dark Fortress seems to pivot him back to a more open character, both with him asking how to help Aaron and his attempt at levity with Marius. When making a joke (his humor has always been dry) about the shared angst amongst the group, a soft smile can be seen on his face. A look of sadness and failure to connect is immediately seen thereafter when his attempt to reach out is met with silence.
The story continues with a focus on Castellum Tenebris, the fortress that is at the center of this new story. Once more, this comic continues to offer a closer look at Tevinter society with Magisters once more plotting for more power through the harnessing of red lyrium (you can learn more about that here). As evil as ever, which is not the case with all Magisters as evident through Dorian Pavus’s (Inquisition) continued storyline in the Tevinter Nights anthology alongside Maeveris Tilani, the plot for control of Thedas continues as Fenris and co. race to put a stop to these nefarious plans:
The one thing I love about the comics from Dark Horse is the art composition. When Maeveris was first introduced in the Those Who Speak comic, I fell in love with her. She’s an incredibly strong character that’s actually related to Varric Tethras, the rogue storyteller that we all know and love. The art style has remained the same throughout most of the comics and while Mae and Dorian aren’t the only “good Vints” from the land of blood magic and slavery, the comics have done a good job at subtly shifting the reader’s focus onto who is “good” and who is “evil” with subtle color changes and angled lines. That is very much prevalent in this first issue, especially the dude that looks like a corpse yet still acts like he’s the hottest thing around. I hope this fictional character feels me rolling my eyes at him.
The final exclusive preview that we have, seen above, shows the crew preparing to take action. When strategizing how best to infiltrate this notoriously impenetrable fortress, Fenris reflects back on his time in service of Danarius. Since this tale is told years after Fenris kills his former master in Dragon Age 2, a good deal of healing has taken place. Returning to Tevinter as the “Blue Wraith” to kill wayward magisters and slavers alike, his time in the company of Marius and Tessa has once again given his heart the freedom to trust once more. This support, whether he recognizes it or not, also gives him the freedom to look back on his past with a more stable footing. Instead of flying into a rage or a bottle of wine, he instead looks back on his past with a clear head. This allows him to note that his former master used to have a secret tunnel in and out of the Castellum should he need to escape in a hurry. “I suspect he built a new passage,” Fenris says when pouring through his memories. “Only his most trusted and loyal servants would know of it.” It’s this moment that thrusts the group into a new course of action: find out who knows if this new entry point exists and how to access it.
The first issue arrives on March 31 with returning names like Nunzio DeFilippis, Fernando Heinz Furukawa, Michael Atiyeh, and Christina Weir all joining their efforts to bring more stories from BioWare’s incredible RPG world.
The beginnings of the latest Dragon Age adventure from BioWare is available to pre-order now from your local comic shop! To prepare, I highly recommend checking out other comics from the same game, especially Mage Killer and Blue Wraith.
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