The Legend of Vox Machina is the latest entry for Amazon Prime's animated series alongside last year's incredibly brutal Invincible and the upcoming series The Boys: Diabolical. This one, however, is based on the web series Critical Role where famous voice actors get together and enact an RPG rendition of Dungeons and Dragons but with improv and satirical humor.
Now adapted in animated form, within the first few minutes into the pilot episode, the tone is set when you see a lot of swearing, bloody violence, and an overdose of pitch-black humor.
The plot revolves around a group of mercenaries calling themselves Vox Machina, who indulge in debauchery, petty fights, and troublemaking. But they're no pathetic losers in any way as each member has its own powers only just they lack direction on how to use it.
Be it Pike Trickfoot's (voiced by The Last of Us alum Ashley Johnson) faith in Everlight which gives her the power to heal and glow in the dark; Grog (voiced by Travis Willingham) who uses super-strength and is oblivious whenever he gets hurt; or the half-elf siblings Vax and Vex (voiced by Liam O' Brien and Laura Bailey respectively) who could summon weapons by manifesting in their hands; or Keyleth (voiced by Marisha May), a druid elf who is going through a quest called Aramente; a quest which acts as the Ashari trial of leadership; Scanlan (voiced by Sam Riegel) who is a gnome bard who could summon a magical hand by playing his mandolin; and there's Percy (voiced by Taliesin Jaffe) the only human in the group but has a pistol which has its own power of its own.
The series highlights the chemistry between these mercenaries and how they effectively become a team. This becomes its greatest strength as the voice actors here deliver their lines with so much glee and so much fun, even when shit hits the fan, there are moments of dark humor sprinkled within thanks to some great improv skills.
It also helps that the animation style while similar to Invincible, still blends the absurd sequences of fantasy and anime-style exaggeration perfectly. Even the violence here is brutal to a point of becoming disturbing. But the series doesn't falter with those tonal shifts as each character brims with so much personality, you know you want to see them save the day and be alright.
The series also compliments our heroes with equally commendable villains, some of them ranging from menacingly scary (The Briarwoods, the rogue's gallery of monsters) to slimy, hateful, at times obnoxiously rotten schemers (Professor Anders, Vedmire, Dr. Ripley, Stonefell, and so on). When you see these characters almost defeat our heroes both mentally and physically, you couldn't help but root for the good guys to win this bad.
The plot also moves at a brisk pace, even with 12 episodes the action is jam-packed with killer one-liners and memorable imagery. Each of the voice acting cast is so in-tune of the line they read, it sometimes feels they're not playing a role-playing game the web series Critical Role is based off.
My favorite of the cast is easily Laura Bailey as Vex, a world-weary assassin who's beginning to open up a bit towards her fellowship but she doesn't have any time for that. Her relationship with Vax has strong sibling chemistry, whenever one of them is in a dire situation, either one of them always fights for them as they have only each other to lose.
Percy voiced by Taliesin Jaffe also has a great backstory, and this arc dominates the majority of the first season where he's driven with vengeance and hatred towards The Briarwoods (voiced by Matthew Mercer and Grey Griffin), but as the series progresses, the vengeance consumes him to a point something sinister manifests within him while he avenges those who aided The Briarwoods who had massacred his family off.
Scanlan and Grog often come across as comic reliefs as they have some of the funniest lines in the series, but they also have moments worthy of goosebumps where they stand up for the team whenever they're in dire straits.
While Keyleth and Pike are the two most OP of the group, they often come across as doubtful, broken, and even at times vulnerable. There are scenes that highlight their vulnerabilities at the forefront, be it Pike's faith in Everlight all of a sudden shattered or Keyleth's anxiety attacks when she's in the middle of a bloodbath.
With elaborate personal backstories, memorable characters, brilliant world-building lore, and some delightfully funny jokes, The Legend of Vox Machina is a show worthy of recommending.