Saturday, August 6, 2016

Going Graphic with the European Union: Dungeon: Zenith-Volume 1: Duck Heart by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim

Image from Amazon
Over the past few decades, graphic novels have become a respected form of literature. Europe, in particular, has published a wide variety of graphic novels, and these works have become available to wider audiences due to the growth in popularity. In this summer series presented by the EUC, graphic novels from a wide variety of EU members will be reviewed and discussed. 

By Rachel Johannigmeier

Swords, monsters, heroes, and ducks make up the world of Dungeon, a very popular comic tale in its native France.  According to Time, the series by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim, started in 1998, and the volume I read, Duck Heart, is a collection of the first two tales in the "Zenith" story of Dungeon.  I did not know what I was going to be reading before going in, but as I read, I found myself laughing and enjoying the humor, both subtle and outrageous.

Image from Amazon
Story Information:

Title: Dungeon: Zenith-Volume 1: Duck Heart

Creators: Joann Sfar (writer) and Lewis Trondheim (artist)

Publisher: NBM Publishing

Audience: Teenagers and older

The world of Dungeon starts in...what else but a dungeon?  It is not as much a dungeon as it is a gauntlet of monsters, magic, and other horrors for adventurers and heroes to face (though none have succeeded in getting out alive).  However, the Dungeon soon finds itself under siege, and it is the power of a barbarian that they need. What they get is a less than effective duke (and duck), Herbert, who miraculously manages to stop the siege.  In the next tale, which is told in a series of vignettes, Herbert and one of the Dungeon's guards, a dragon named Marvin, go on a quest to teach Herbert how to actually be a hero.  What results is a journey that is both comedic and slightly poignant.

Duck Heart is never afraid to poke fun at its characters, but it is also not afraid to consider the more serious feelings of these characters.  Herbert seems like a hapless loser, and for the most part, he is one, but when you learn about his banishment due to a duel to his father, I felt invested in the character.  It is farce, but it is farce with heart behind it.

The art is also fun and cartoonish, and one could read the story multiple times and find something new to notice in the background of the panel.  It is to the story's strength that it's characters are bizarre creatures and not humans, since this allows the artist to be creative.  While locations can look simple, it is an art style that works for the type of story that it is trying to tell.

One area that could have worked better would be the pacing of the second half of the story.  It felt as if it was over too soon, and it also jumped around at a pace that sometimes made a confusing read.  It ends on a note that leaves the reader wanting more.  This is a good sign though, that I want to continue the story.

I would recommend this graphic novel for people who love a well-done spoof and comedy with a hint of fantasy.

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