I don’t have tags for either video games or sharecropping, since I don’t read enough books in either category to make those useful, but this book would have both of those tags, if they existed. I’m also not 100% sure the “for kids” applies: the CIP data on the copyright page says these books are “Ages 8+,” but so are a lot of other things. The Minecraft graphic novels are at least not not for kids, if that makes sense.
Most people will be reading this book, and the burst of other Minecraft graphic novels that Dark Horse has been publishing under an arrangement with Mojang over the past couple of years, because they like the video game Minecraft: maybe the building/crafting elements, maybe the grinding/fighting mobs elements, maybe something social about being on a server with friends. But I only played Minecraft a very little bit myself, way back near the beginning, so I’m one of the few people here because I’m following Kristen Gudsnuk’s career.
(Sidebar 1: said career consisting, as far as I’ve seen, of the awesome Henchgirl graphic novel, mostly for adults, and two books in the Making Friends series for middle-grader readers. Those also contain awesomeness, but said awesomeness is more finely tailored to an audience of tween girls. A third Making Friends book has just been published; I haven’t seen it yet. I recommend adults start with Henchgirl: as previously mentioned, it is awesome, and I will keep saying so until everyone admits it.)
(Sidebar 2: I think I liked what I played of Minecraft. It’s just that I think I want to play building/crafting sims – I spent decades thinking I really really wanted to play Sim City or Sim Universe or whatever, but never got around to any of them, and did buy The Sims but left it moldering in my Steam folder after setting up two separate households in one evening – but, on the evidence, I actually want to do some crafting/building in my RPGs, as evidenced by nearly 3k hours in Fallout 4 to date. So nothing against Minecraft, and I may get back to it someday. But I bet it’s totally different than my vague memory.)
I say that to orient you the reader: the Minecraft stuff here is vaguely familiar to me, and I have definitely played other video games. But I may misunderstand some pretty basic stuff, and I apologize ahead of time if I do.
Anyway, Kristen Gudsnuk, of previous awesome comics fame, is in the middle of a trilogy of short graphic novels set in the world of Minecraft, the popular video game. I recently read the first two: as far as I can see, the third is not yet scheduled to be published, but my guess is that it should hit in mid-2022. The series is called Minecraft: Wither Without You, and Volume One was published in April of 2020 and Volume Two followed this May.
So this is an incomplete story, obviously. It’s set-up and middle, but the ending is not available yet. But each of the two books to date has an arc of its own – as all trilogies should – so I think I can say coherent things about the two of them.
We’re in a fantasy world that will be very familiar to Minecraft players and deeply weird to anyone else: the world is made of blocky elements than can be mined for materials used to build other things, and monsters run around randomly. Some of the people are rounded, but most of the villagers (whisper NPCs whisper) are blocky just like their world and creatures. Adventurers fight monsters to save villages, but even more so to get experience orbs and rare materials and probably some valuables the monsters have themselves.
Cahira and Orion are twin teenage monster hunters, traveling with their mentor/teacher Senan the Thorough to learn the ways of monster hunting and get epic loot along the way. In the first book, a Wither – a big nasty flying monster – attacks them when they trigger a trap in some monster-filled castle they’re exploring. It swallows Senan, and the twins chase it across the landscape, thinking they can save their mentor from its belly if they can do it quickly enough.
They are correct, though they need the help of Atria, a teen girl they meet along the way: she’s been cursed to attract monsters, and ends up both luring the Wither to them and figuring out what the Wither really wants.
The second book begins with our four heroes seeing that same Wither fly over, which it should definitely not be doing given the end of book one. (Trying to be at leas slightly vague here.) They’re on their way to Whitestone City to resupply after their epic battle, and they decide to also consult the great sorcerer Lucasta while they’re in town.
Unfortunately, Lucasta is also Senan’s great rival, so there’s some tension there. She also farms monsters, and is most interested in setting Atria up in a room with some monster death-traps to harvest their stuff – which is not the most pleasant thing for Atria. And there’s a self-proclaimed great monster hunter, Elvicks, in Whitestone, and his arrogance and attempted thievery leads to a zombie infestation, as it sometimes does.
So most of the back end of book two is devoted to getting rid of the zombies and working out the other problems. But they all end the book newly geared up and ready to go out and stop that Wither…which I presume they will do in the final book.
These are both fun and zippy in Gudsnuk’s usual style: her people have big emotions and reactions, which is excellent for slightly goofy melodrama where the reader knows it will all end well eventually. You probably do need to be a fan of Minecraft or Gudsnuk to want to read them, unless you’ve got a thing for books-based-on-video games. (And maybe you do: I don’t judge.) But both of these books are very good at what they set out to do, and what they set out to do is be vaguely positive but silly entertainment.