The Unity of Rings

A Walk Through the Planes – Side Story: The Unity of Rings




From the very beginning of this series, I never intended on covering TSR/WotC’s planar fiction. There’s a heaping pile of reasons for this, ranging from these books not really being my type of literature, to the way this effort would quickly devolve into reading and/or skimming the entirety of all the shared worlds Wizards owns, to the fact that time is finite and I’d rather spend my life doing something else. That being said… I may at some point dive into a few of these things, particularly the actual Planescape books, mostly out of morbid curiosity. And for now, I’m going to make a weird exception to this rule by covering the semi-unpublished tie-in comic “The Unity of Rings,” which has a weird history but was released to the public for the first time in November of 2003 on

Originally, the comic was meant to be published in 1996. It was part of a small line of tie-in comics meant to promote TSR products, and the company was offering a free issue with any $15 or more purchase. Intended as a way of introducing their audience to other lines of products they might not be familiar with, according to a promotional advertisement, there would be five comics in total. However, only four were actually published, most likely due to the company’s impending bankruptcy—that is until “Unity” surprised us all with its release. Here’s the full rundown for this line of introductory comics:

  • Forgotten Realms: The Grand Tour
  • Birthright: The Serpent’s Eye
  • Generic Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Labyrinth of Madness
  • Dragonlance: The Fifth Age
  • Planescape: The Unity of Rings

I’ve never read the four other comics in this series, and, frankly, I probably never will. I truly don’t care what they entail. But unlike with all the tie-in novels created for the setting, “The Unity of Rings” was essentially an in-house work from TSR, and so extremely connected with the Planescape supplements rather than the novels. Its story is credited to “The Planescape Group,” which I believe was described on as being Monte Cook, Michelle Carter, Colin McComb, Ray Vallese, and Andria Hayday. I say that I “believe” this is the case because unfortunately that part of the website was removed ages ago, and even with a fair amount of trawling around I was unable to find the original summary referring to the comic. That being said, the Kuronons blog devoted to D&D comics includes an excerpt from there, not to mention a scan of the entire comic readily available today.

The story was conceived by the Planescape group—Monte Cook (writer of “Hand of the Revenant” module), Michelle Carter, Colin McComb, Ray Vallese, and Andria Hayday—and scripted by veteran planewalker (and experienced comic author) Jeff Grubb. It includes the art and lettering skills of Mark Heike, Brad Gorby, Chris Allen, and Bill Black (founder of AC comics), and colors by Barbara Brecker.

My memory of this page is that there was a little bit more information than just this quoted paragraph here, but I may be wrong, and if I’m not then it’s hard to say what originally was there or even what might have been said—if anyone is able of finding this information out, I’d love to see it. As far as context goes, that’s unfortunately all I can offer, though if anyone else has recollections or information about this comic I’ll happily add them here, as it seemed a bit of a strange project, even by the Planescape setting’s standards. 

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t colored with grade school markers, it just looks like it was. But I’m not positive.

As for the actual comic itself, I’m of two minds. The storyline fits perfectly with TSR’s Planescape supplements, and works as an excellent format for showing off some of the more distinct parts of the multiverse. It travels from Sigil out into the Blood War, from Mount Celestia to Mechanus. It illustrates the titular Unity of Rings through a literal ring, and I love the symmetry of its beginning and ending. I’ve never read Grubb’s other comic work, of which there’s actually a fair amount, but what’s here is restrained and willing to let the pictures tell the story without getting in the way with unnecessary exposition. Were this matched with good art, it would work as the perfect introductory primer for the setting that it was originally intended as. 


Unfortunately, though, the art here is quite poor, or at least it really doesn’t fit with Planescape. I may have had my issues with the mixed-media formatting of the comic included with Hellbound, but at least that felt like part of the Planescape universe. “Unity,” on the other hand, doesn’t include work by Tony DiTerlizzi or RK Post or even the more obscure artists who contributed to the setting, nor does it try to capture the feeling of their work. Instead, we have garish colors and childish drawings. This version of Planescape only feels a few steps removed from the Dungeons & Dragons TV series of the early 1980s, looking to entertain sixth graders rather than adults. 

This double-page spread is far and away the best part of the comic, which isn’t surprising since it relies so heavily on the already-established maps of these planes.

The result is a work that clashes with itself. While the setting and Grubb & co.’s story ask for vile demons, including a naked marilith, what shows up isn’t a vision of Hell, it’s a Saturday morning cartoon. You’d think the endless violence of the Blood War, followed by the lengthy decay of a Vrock, might be adult, but here it’s largely played for… not laughs, exactly, but certainly not tragedy or horror. The Outer Planes seem less like a place for philosophical discussions and more like a swashbuckler-of-the-week format. The art isn’t bad in and of itself, as it would be a fine fit for a genuinely child-oriented topic, but when married to this story, and to Planescape at all for that matter, it just doesn’t work. My favorite part of the whole comic is a map of the Outer Planes surrounded by a montage of events involving the golden ring being passed around. This is a great idea, and like the comic as a whole seems like it should work as a wonderful way of explaining the scope of these locations… it just doesn’t because it’s let down by the art on nearly every page. 


While I’m glad that “Unity” somehow survived and made it online after its many years lost in some disused filing cabinet at Wizards’ office, it’s by no means necessary reading, and doesn’t fit in with the setting as well as might be expected given its authors. It’s the lesser of the two Planescape comics, even though I prefer its story and concept. I also rather doubt that it would’ve attracted anyone to the campaign setting given what’s on display, and at the same time most players actually enjoying Planescape probably would’ve been dismayed by how bad this version looks compared with what’s in all of the actual game supplements. I would happily reread a version of this drawn by artwork fitting of the setting, but since this is what we’re left with it remains a weird footnote rather for the series rather than an unearthed treasure.

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