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REVIEW: 'Quests Aside' #1 by Brian Schirmer, Elena Gogou, and Rebecca Nalty


Writer: Brian Schirmer
Artist: Elena Gogou, Rebecca Nalty
Letterer: AndWorld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Release Date: May 4, 2022
Cover Price: $4.99

A skeleton, an apprentice mage, and an exiled princess walk into a bar... for another shift at Quests Aside, the local watering hole run by once legendary, now retired adventurer Barrow.

When the King privately explains that he plans to shut the place down, Barrow must find a way to hold onto his business and the family he's built around it.

It's always sunny in the realms!

★★★★☆ (4/5)

'Quests Aside' is an appealing and amusing new title from Brian Schirmer, Elena Gogou, and Rebecca Nalty whose heart belongs to the tabletop games that inspired it but as any fantasy fan will notice, the local tavern is a familiar spot full of drama all its own. It's something that Schirmer makes clear, there's more to some adventurer's quest when you're running a business full of quirky characters, patrons, and staff alike. It's more of a workplace comedy similar to 'Cheers' and 'It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia' set in a mythical world where mages, undead skeletons, and trolls co-exist. 

Not being versed in TTRPG, I imagine I'm missing some nuance here but fantasy stories in literature, film, and video games all encompass a place like the aptly named 'Quests Aside' tavern where characters can recharge, gather intelligence, pick up weapons or tools, have a few ales and maybe get involved in a brawl. The possibilities are endless. Like the former baseball player turned bar owner Sam Malone on 'Cheers,' Barrow is a famed former adventurer who uses his legend to draw in patrons. He's got his hands full with a staff that consists of a skeleton, an apprentice mage, and an exiled princess. When the guy you used to run with it is also the King, the politics of the day complicate things further for Barrow. 

The vibe is very much situational comedy that borders on satire. The staff is quirky but well-realized with their own motivations and issues that make the supporting characters charming and interesting in their own right. Some of the events that take place in the tavern are genuinely amusing and spot-on for bars in the real world. You won't find much action because of the character-driven storyline but there's plenty to keep readers engaged including sight gags if you're paying attention. 

Elena Gogou is a versatile artist as the issue has a lot going on. It takes place mostly in the tavern but there are exterior shots of the bard singing, flashbacks, and one particular cool shot involving the princess. While that's all well and good, Gogou's range in conveying emotions is on another level. There's no shortage of feelings on display and Gogou captures them all. Rebecca Nalty's earthy warm hues give the tavern the cozy dark atmosphere it needs. AndWorld Design's lettering captures the joy and over-the-top exuberance of battling bards. 

'Quests Aside' is an unexpected but delightful fantasy sitcom with so much humor and heart that it's hard to dislike the new series. Schirmer's love of the genre and his characters shows making them endearing right off the bat. Playfully illustrated by Gogou and Nalty, 'Quests Aside' is a good time where the stakes are low, the ale is flowing, and everyone knows your name. 



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