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Although Diablo III has been postponed until 2012, fans of the series can tide themselves over by picking up the first issue of Sword of Justice, which hits the shelves this week. Set in the same dark-fantasy world as the game, SoJ is a five-issue comic series published by DC Comics which takes place during the twenty years that elapsed between the ending of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction and the beginning of Diablo III.
The issue starts with a nice little summary of the overarching story of the Diablo universe. Sanctuary (the world of mortals) was created by angels and demons as a place of refuge. Despite the best intentions, Sanctuary was almost destroyed twice, and each time it owed its salvation to Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice.
We then segue out of the past and into the present, where a young wanderer is confronted by an old beggar who claims to be able to see the future. He knows that the young man’s name is Jacob and that he is being pursued by hostile men. He tells Jacob to seek out a mysterious mountain.
At first, Jacob doesn’t believe the old man’s ramblings, but after almost dying of thirst in the desert, he stumbles upon the mountain that the old seer described. Inside, there’s a great cave whose walls are carved with scenes from his past, and a shining sword protrudes from the stone.
Seeing the scenes on the wall bring back painful memories for Jacob, and the reader finally starts to understand what the young man is running from. Video game tie-ins often leave a lot to be desired, but SoJ manages to be a compelling read. Scriptwriter Aaron Williams has a done a nice job with Jacob’s characterization, and he has a knack for incorporating subtle humor into the dialogue.
The story he’s crafted appears promising, and it will be interesting to see how SoJ fits in with the storyline of Diablo III when it’s finally released. The art, however, may not be to everyone’s liking. If you’re one of the fans who thinks that Diablo III isn’t dark and gritty enough, then you might want to steer clear of SoJ.
Joseph Lacroix’s work is visually appealing, but his highly-stylized drawings may not appeal to those looking for gritty realism. All in all, SoJ is a promising addition to the world of Diablo. It could have easily become a cliched ‘young warrior finds a magic weapon’ story, but it looks like they’ve managed to create something fresh and new.