Thursday, June 01, 2006

Review: Dungeon - Twilight vol. 1: Dragon Cemetery

Dungeon - Twilight vol. 1: Dragon Cemetery
By Joann Sfar & Lewis Trondheim
Published by NBM, US$14.95

Maybe this isn't fair, but I feel like everything you need to know about whether or not you'll like this book is in the panel above.

The story follows the Dust King (pictured, center) on a quest to find the fabled Dragon Cemetery. Blind and elderly, the Dust King is aided in his journey by several interesting characters, including Marvin the Red, a smart ass samurai rabbit and a young bat, whose charming naivete is endearing. What follows is a fairly typical plot involving several obstacles overcome, usually with the requisite swordfighting or other violent encounters, with more than a little sarcastic humor and witty banter mixed in.

Where this book excels is its craftsmanship. Both Sfar and Trondheim have the ability to envelop the reader in their unique inner world, where every character, no matter how minor, is a fully realized extension of the two creators' vast imaginations. The panel above is a typical example of the kinds of bizarre creatures that inhabit the Dungeon world, characters that combine anthromorphic and fantasy traits with the goofy humor of Larson's Far Side panels. Sfar and Trondheim, whose styles are so similar it's not always clear who illustrated what, pour themselves into this story filling every panel with an impressive amount of background detail and the digital coloring, while often times overused in lesser books, further enhances the story adding a richness and depth to the artwork, and its colorful cast of characters.

Yet readers looking for the same kind of original and compelling storytelling found in Sfar's classic The Rabbi's Cat may feel a little disappointed. Much of the action is predictable, and though the plot certainly holds together, it's a fairly light story at best, with little subtext or character exploration. In addition, the story ends abruptly, without resolving its many plot threads, presumably meant to entice readers to purchase the second volume, but not as clean a break as one is typically used to at the end of a chapter (ie - no climactic cliffhangers or lingering questions). There isn't even a "to be continued" banner.

Twilight was my first visit to the immense world of Dungeon and though I can't say, after reading this, that I'm moved to go back and fill out my library with the other volumes of the epic, I would be lying if I said I wasn't at least tempted to read vol .2.

Grade: 3.5/5

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