My week-long look at NBM titles continues with the latest English translation of the popular Dungeon (in French, Donjon) series of titles.
Dungeon is the expansive Dungeons and Dragons satire that French comic creators Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim started in 1998. Similar to George Lucas’ idea of having Star Wars stories set in the “past,” the “present” and the “future,” the Dungeon series of comics takes place at different points in the history of the land Terra Amata.
Sfar and Trondheim manage to create such an elaborate universe (I think there have been almost thirty albums in the last eleven years) by only co-writing most of the albums – Trondheim originally drew the first few albums of the “Zenith” series, which tells the tale of the, well, zenith point of the land of Terra Amata. But artist Boulet took over with albums 5 and 6, which were reprinted in English by NBM as Dungeon: Zenith Vol. 3: Back in Style.
It’s a great little work from two brilliant comic book creators and a great (slightly) newer artist.
Boulet is not necessarily as good as Trondheim, but really, that’s not saying much, as Trondheim is an absolutely brilliant artist. Boulet is still a very, very good artist, and if you were going to pick someone to follow Trondheim on this series, Boulet makes as good of sense as anyone else, as he jumps right in to the lighthearted (as this is the Zenith series – in the future, things are not so lighthearted) world of Herbert the Duck and all the other anthropomorphic characters living in this world.
The one major fault with this book is that it takes place directly after the previous volume, and even by this point, the continuity of the series has gotten fairly complex, so it may take a little while to figure out what’s going on and how each character relates to each other.
But once you’ve more or less done that, you can appreciate the comedy of this series, which Sfar and Trondheim do a brilliant job of rolling just enough drama into the proceedings that it is not totally out of the realm of possibility that these wacky adventures could soon turn quite dark if it came to that. For instance, the second story involves Herbert going to visit his parents in disguise (as he’s anatis non grata in his hometown), but when he laughs, his magical disguise wears off. That’s a fine comedic plot, but when he reveals himself to his mother, his family’s longtime maid walks in. He asks her to promise not to tell anyone, and while she’s in the midst of saying, “Of course not, I’ve known you since…” Herbert’s mother stabs her to death, figuring that the secret was too important to risk. That’s some cold stuff – and it gives you a hint of what is to come in the world of Dungeon.
In any event, for a very funny, character-based genre piece with great art, I think this book could appeal to a lot of people, but perhaps you’d be better served by picking up the first two volumes before this one.
Still, this IS a good comic book, so…
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