Book Review: “Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Vol. 1” by Matthew Mercer, Matthew Colville, Olivia Samson and Chris Northrop

Warning: This review contains spoilers for “Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Vol. 1” by Matthew Mercer, Matthew Colville, Olivia Samson and Chris Northrop. If you loathe spoilers, turn back! If you don’t mind, go ahead and keep reading!

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Cover of “Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Vol. 1” by Matthew Mercer, Matthew Colville, Olivia Samson and Chris Northrop.

I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins Vol. 1” by Matthew Mercer, Matthew Colville, Olivia Samson and Chris Northrop! For those who don’t know, Critical Role is a web series where voice actors play Dungeons & Dragons. They just recently celebrated their fifth anniversary last week, so I figured I might as well post the review for “Vox Machina Origins” around then as a way to celebrate! Please keep in mind, while reading this review, that I read the Standard Edition of this volume. Here’s a short blurb about it so we know what it’s about:

“160 pages of origin story goodness, centered in coastal town of Stilben in Exandria. Both the standard edition includes the complete collection of Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #1–#6, as well as bonus content including annotated cover process pieces, preliminary character sketches, and character descriptions and stats.
The standard edition features cover art by Stjepan Šejić with a spot gloss treatment.

With over 160 pages of magical storytelling and bonus content, Vox Machina Origins brings together Critical Role: Vox Machina Origins #1–#6 in a single volume, following six would-be heroes as they uncover a plot to destroy the small coastal town of Stilben. The comic series is written by Matthew Colville (Evolve, Priest, Thief) with interior art by Olivia Samson, a member of the Critical Role fan community, and coloring and lettering by Chris Northrop.”

Worldbuilding Development: 5 out of 5 stars

The worldbuilding is incredibly good, and I don’t mean just through aesthetics. However, said aesthetics/artwork is very well-detailed. It’s tempting to just gaze at the pages and and observe the scenery while reading. Bits of how other races (half-elves, orcs, gnomes, etc.) are treated are revealed in dialogue and the actions of characters, for example. I can’t explain too much of that because it gets super-spoilery in terms of the actual plot and I don’t want to spoiler too much more than I will for the rest of this review, but you can at least start to see how the worldbuilding affects each character’s behaviour and actions as is in the beginning, even if you don’t know their full backstories yet.

Plot Development: 5 out of 5 stars

Character Development: 5 out of 5 stars

For those who are very new to Critical Role and/or don’t know much about Campaign 1, fear not: Though it’s a given by the title, this volume (and following volumes) act as the origin story for Vox Machina; how they met, how they banded together, and so on. Regardless of whether you’re an old or new “Critter” (the nickname for fans of Critical Role), it’ll be easy to get into the whole story and understand the gist of what’s going on with everyone.

I also do think the end of the volume left the reader on an interesting cliffhanger. That alchemist that assisted the main villain of this volume is implied to get a more major role in the next volume, which I think will be interesting to read. I also wonder how the newly-formed Vox Machina will get along and work with each other. Clearly, they all worked well enough to defeat the main villain of this volume, but how will they fare in their future adventures? I’ll have to read the next volume to find out!

Though this is a general introductory-type volume for all the main characters, especially given that this is an origin series and this is the first volume in said series, all of the characters have such interesting nuances and depth to them. Keyleth and Scanlan stuck out as two of my favourite characters due to the various interactions they had with all the other main characters. Keyleth almost rightaway wants to be friends with Vex, and Scanaln does a lot of poking fun at plot-related bits, such as how all the separate paths of the main characters lead to each other, for example. The characters very much drive the plot here, especially given how they all run into each other and team up in the first place, and that’s the overall strength of this story. It’s really fun to see how their choices drive the things that happen within the plot. There is also a lot of humour to break up the tension that is shared in more serious scenes, but it’s well-balanced with the tension and doesn’t overshadow it.

Overall, I’m rating this 5 out of 5 stars! 

If you’re new to Critical Role—this might just be a good starter for you to read! I also think watching a couple episodes of Campaign 1 will help on some level, but I also think it’s well-written and created to be accessible to newer Critters as well. Also, happy belated fifth anniversary to Critical Role!

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