Whenever I fall in love with a game, I always find myself wishing for more. More adventures, more character interaction, more everything. Fanfiction and art can step in here, but sometimes the Video Game Powers That Be take heed and answer my wishes directly. And no, I’m not talking about DLC. I’m talking comic books. Dragon Age comic books.
Canon compliant and beautifully illustrated, the Dragon Age comics build on the world of Thedas in a way that even the books can’t. Not only do you get more stories from this universe, but you get to see them as well, thanks to the stunning artwork of Fernando Heinz Furukawa. Dragon Age: Blue Wraith is both the latest installment in the adventures of Ser Aaron Hawthorne, Vaea, and company as well as the first issue in the story of a certain beloved character from the games.
The Future of Fenris
Whether you loved him, hated him, banged him, or sold him into slavery (you utter monster), everyone has an opinion about broody elf extraodinaire Fenris. Introduced in Dragon Age II, the Tevinter escapee was known for making anti-mage rants, having a lyrium-infused physique, and hoarding a copious amount of wine in his derelict mansion in Kirkwall. Oh, and he has one hell of a brooding stare.
“[Fenris] is a co-lead in this miniseries, not a cameo. There’s a lot of backstory to catch up on, and then a lot of in-story choices he’s going to make. All of those choices need to work for him,” writer Christina Weir says. She and fellow writer Nunzio DeFilippis have been working on the Dragon Age comics, as well as Ser Hawthorne and Vaea’s story, for multiple issues and years.
While characters from the games have made appearances in the comics, such as Varric, Dorian, and Sebastian, none of their roles have been as big as Fenris’ in Dragon Age: Blue Wraith. So how do you write a character as popular as Fenris outside the structures of the game? What decisions do you take that make sense and will resonate and expand the canon?
“We wrote a Fenris who stayed with Hawke until the end, and then the group went their separate ways,” Weir explains. This means that even if you had a Fenris that was in love with Hawke, he was still left behind. After all, Hawke appears in Dragon Age: Inquisition alone, and while he will mention his lover in dialogue, you never get to see that interaction. It’s that which Weir and DeFilippis wanted to explore. “How would he react to having been left behind?”
The answer, it turns out, is to become a mage hunter so notorious that he garners the nickname The Blue Wraith — due to his lyrium infused skin and ability to attack his quarry with deadly, quiet precision.
“He tried to start his own group, and that didn’t work out. And now, he’s 100% certain his best path is taken alone,” DeFilippis says.
An Updated Look
Furukawa worked alongside Weir and DeFilippis to imagine what an older Fenris would look like. Thankfully, it wasn’t that hard.
“The process was easy. BioWare, Nunzio and Christina sent everything I needed for the redesign. I took what I liked the most of the original and the alternate designs and added some things like the scarf, to give the character something that I can use to show movement, like that old Shinobi game on the PS2, the shoulder pads and boots among other things,” Furukawa explains.
The result? One badass undercut and distinctly more fashionable threads. None of it seems inappropriate for Fenris; it’s a natural progression that fits alongside his personality.
Of course, Fenris isn’t the only character that matters in Thedas. Finding a way to really pay homage to the Dragon Age world in the games while still putting a bit of his own flair on it was a challenge for Furukawa.
“I’m used to working on video games licenses like StarCraft or World of Warcraft. But this was more difficult because the realism of the world that the BioWare team has created,” he explains. ”Obviously, I have to use a lot of references from the games and comics already created, and then I had to research for more realistic reference for castles, armors, weapons, etc.”
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Growth and Change
“[It’s] a sense of his growth, combined with the fun of revisiting an old favorite,” Weir says, on why they chose to focus on Fenris. “He’s always been my favorite from the Dragon Age series — well, him and Varric. A broody killing machine with a highly developed sense of honor that clashes with his anger and need for vengeance, and a secret desire to be part of something while simultaneously insisting he walks alone? What’s not to love?”
In Blue Wraith, Weir and DeFilippis match Fenris with comics-original characters Francesca — a Tevinter mage — and Vaea, an Elven squire.
“[Fenris and Francesca] each will change the other,” Weir says. “With Vaea in the middle, trying to keep them from killing each other.”
“We’ve enjoyed putting our new characters into this world and then weaving them into it enough that they feel just as at home as the companions in the games,” DeFilippis tells me. For the most part, he believes fans appreciate the extension of the canon found in the comics.
“Some get frustrated that these stories are not in the games,” he notes. “They worry that this will force them into a medium they’re not used to, or else they will be missing chunks of the story when and if the next game is released. To fans with that concern, I can only say this: our goal is to tell an engaging story set in a world you love.”
“In the end, the comics are a way to fill out the world, see characters you might not see, and read stories that build the world out,” Weir adds. “We’ve shown Kirkwall and Starkhaven (in Knight Errant), caught up with Sebastian and Varric. And we’re about to show what Fenris has been up to. So that’s got to be fun for fans of the game — to check back in on favorite characters and places you haven’t been in a while, or maybe never got to see.”
“And hey,” DeFilippis concludes, “maybe you discover you like comics. That’d be a nice side effect, right?”
Dragon Age: Blue Wraith is published by Dark Horse and is available in comic book shops everywhere and online on January 15th.