The Best Portrayal Of Ceremorphosis In Any Medium: Reviewing ‘Dungeons & Dragons– Mindbreaker’

by Anton Kromoff

Welcome to the table.

“Jim Zub knows how to write Ceremorphosis.”

I have recently had the opportunity to read Jim Zub and Eduardo Mellio‘s collected graphic novel Dungeons & Dragons Mindbreaker and my biggest takeaway is that Jim Zub knows how to write Ceremorphosis. I mean it, Zub captures everything that is alien and invasive about the process in such a visceral and real way that this comic stands out to me as one of the best portrayals of the process in any media I have come across and own Lords of Madness. Let’s get into it…

Writer: Jim Zub
Art by: Eduardo Mellio
Colours: Katrina Mae Hao (#1 & #3) and Luis Antonio Delgado (#2, #4, &5)
Letters: Neil Uyetake

The story jumps off with the party consisting of Krydle half-elf thief, Shandie halfling rouge, Nerys the cleric of Kelemvor, Delina a moon elf wild mage, and the berserker and space hamster (yes you read that right) tag team of Minsc & Boo, returning to Balders Gate after a brief trip to hell.

In typical tabletop fashion, the party splits to go about their “shopping episode” individual tasks. The dialog and pacing are cleanly executed and none of the individual character moments feel under or over-served. Zub’s skill at writing these characters naturally really shines in the first part of the story. The party regathers and contemplates the next steps but are quickly pulled into an insidious plot involving cults and Illithids that leads to some solid emotional beats laced with really dynamic combat.

There’s a really fun payoff that nods back to an older plot point in a way that feels like a really good Storyteller who seeds adventure beats for his party well in advance. As far as Dungeons & Dragons comics go, this has easily been one of my favorites.

Stand-out moments

There is a really fun early encounter with a displacer beast (based on its size I would say it could be a mutated displacer beast) that, between Mellio’s artwork and Zub’s dialog, serves as such a cool way to display the creature’s innate magical ability to bend light, making them appear slightly shifted from their actual position. It’s always really fun for me when you see a game mechanic presented in a way that describes what is happening without having to stop and give exposition to actual game rules.

Delina’s wild magic does not feel like a plot device. I’ve often seen magic surges and wild magic used at a table as more of a “let’s be silly” or “let’s mess up the narrative” device but Zub really captures how I see it working in relation to spellcasting. It can have a comedic effect but it does not feel like it is heavy-handed when it does or at the expense of the story and while disruptive it feels intentional and lived in. Mechanics like this can become super tropey and gag like but the way it is executed in the story it really feels like part of the world and not an attention grab.

Jim Zub knows how to write Ceremorphosis. Holy hellfire can Jim Zub write Ceremorphosis well. For those unfamiliar with this particularly nasty bit of D&D lore, Ceremorphosis is the bodily change that occurs when an Illithid (or Mindflayer if you prefer) tadpole reaches maturity and is inserted into the brain of another entity, typically a humanoid.

The tadpole eats away at the host’s brain matter and grows in size replacing the brain. This process erases all of the host’s personality and memory and leaves the physical form alive and totally under the tadpole’s control. The host body then undergoes this super gruesome morphological change and transforms violently into an Illithid with tentacles bursting forth from the skull and the body shifting and changing until it resembles that of the alien-looking Mindflayer.

The way Zub captures the feelings of characters implanted as the realization and transformations take hold is brilliantly intimate and really feels like there is weight and purpose behind the characters as they go through the metamorphosis. I would be woefully remiss if I did not call out Mellio’s ability to render the strange transformation on the page. As far as D&D lore goes this is easily one of my favorite accounts of Ceremorphosis in media because it feels like it gets all of it right.

Dungeons & Dragons Mindbreaker is available for purchase tomorrow at your local comics shop.

Until next time, keep those weird little alien tadpoles out of your face space… seriously… the results are never good.

%d bloggers like this: