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Dungeon: Zenith - Vol. 1: Duck Heart Paperback – August 1, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
For the first time, Sfar and Trondheim's extensive series of French comics parodying the sword and sorcery genre has been collected into an American volume. The series' unlikely hero is Herbert, a talking duck who works as a dungeon keeper's flunky. In the first story, Herbert, unable to fetch a barbarian to battle the dungeon keeper's adversaries, impersonates a warrior and embarks on the mission himself. Herbert is a traditional comedy figure, a boastful, cowardly impostor. Accompanying him is Marvin, a competent fighter and vegetarian dragon. Though these stories are inventive, they appear to have lost something in translation, as they are rarely truly witty or funny. For example, at one point Herbert and Marvin pose as interior decorators to gain admission to the villains' lair. But the creators seem satisfied merely with establishing the premise rather than building on its comedic potential. In the second story, Herbert undergoes training as a warrior from Marvin's former master, who proves to be cruel and manipulative. In a startling sequence, the master's prize pupil corrupts a tribe of hunters with a lust for wealth and power, whereupon they enslave a community of peaceful shepherds. This serious, ambitious indictment of war and inequality is impressive. The artwork is beautiful (both Trondheim and Sfar are award-winning artists), but the preference for long shots distances readers from the characters.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr. 9-12. This first volume of the Dungeon graphic novel series follows the misadventures of Herbert the Duck. As a result of some unfortunate accidents, Herbert, usually a lowly messenger in the great Dungeon, is called upon to defend it from all manner of beasties. In his endeavors to become a warrior, he is helped by his friend Marvin the vegetarian dragon and by the Dungeon Keeper. Although there's a solid dose of cartoon-style violence and gore, teens will appreciate Herbert's pseudo-slacker attitude, which turns him into an accidental hero time and time again. They'll also like the tongue-in-cheek storytelling, rife with screwball humor that is so bad it's hilarious. The art is offbeat and fun, too, with detailed backgrounds that are often as over the top as the action. A great change of pace from mainstream comics. Tina Coleman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top customer reviews
Trondheim's partner on Dungeon, Joann Sfar, has had a far better experience; his book 'The Rabbi's Cat' was selected for publication by Pantheon, sold very well, and won a number of the biggest industry awards, spawning a successful sequel. His comic for kids, 'Le Petit Vampire', was translated for English speaking audiences and became a New York Times Bestseller.
The two men's work on Donjon, or Dungeon, is a true collaboration that has continued for over 15 years. It's popularity in Europe persuaded NBM, a company whose history has been made up in large part by English translations of European artists like Francois Schuiten, Vittorio Giardino and Nicolas De Crecy.
The French albums, each one a 9" x 12" hardcover 48 pages long, have been collected by NBM in 7" x 9" softcovers containing two albums of material around a 100 pages. So far, some 28 tomes have been gathered into 14 of these affordable and attractive books. The story that has emerged is one of the biggest, funniest, scariest, saddest,and most unpredictable comics on the market. It is simultaneously a parody, homage, and legit contender for the fantasy-comic-genre. From the start, Sfar and Trondheim introduced sly versions of the many cliches that have been repeated ad nauseum by legions of hacks and embarrassingly-earnest-utterly-awful writers that drag the entire genre down. Their satirical and surgical operation examines every narrative organ in the fantasy corpus, excising the many useless appendixes that the body has sprouted due to long exposure to Tolkien radiation... but as they had fun vivisecting fantasy and identifying the problematic but nowhere near fatal diseases and parasites, they also found ways to heal, as well. The story grew quickly and more characters fell into the plot-web and stuck. The world of Terra Amata was bigger now, and the ubiquitous quests were set in motion. But Trondheim and Sfar were falling in love with world-building; more importantly, they were good at it. They took readers forward then back in time, to witness the Dungeon's birth and inevitable death, as well as the consequences for the entire planet.
As the storytelling moved into darker, richer territory, however, it's sense of humor was undiminished, Some of the most entertaining moments are found in the popular 'Monstres' series. Designed to tell the stories of the various creatures tasked with killing the adventurer's who come to the Dungeon in search of fame and fortune (leaving their own magical weapons and fancy armor behind instead -- this is the business that keeps the Dungeon in operation), each self-contained tale is illustrated by a different artist. 'Le Noir Seigneur', by Blanquet, and 'Les Profondeurs', by Killoffer, contain some of my all-time favorite comic art, particularly the latter. Collected in volumes 1 and 3 of 'Monstres', I loved them so much I ordered the original oversized French editions to better appreciate the brilliance on display.
One major problem is the uncertainty readers interested in the series feel about where to begin, what comes next, etc. The lack of clear numbers comes from the fact that there ISN'T one proper order to proceed in... My suggestion is: Dungeon: Zenith (Vol. 1,2,3,[4?]); Dungeon: Parade (Vol. 1,2); Dungeon: Twilight (Vol. 1,2,3,[4?]); Dungeon: Monstres (Vol. 1,2,3,4); Dungeon: The Early Years (Vol. 1,2). I think fourth volumes are to be released soon in the Zenith and Twilight series, and a fifth volume is coming in the Monstres series. Never mind 'Bone' and 'Fables', take a chance on this amazing epic.
The first page opens with a great expository introduction to the world of Dungeon and I was hooked from there unto the end. Characterization, gags, artwork, and story are all top notch. I was sad when I plowed through it in one sitting. I just couldn't stop, it always kept me wondering what would happen next to the characters and every turn was more clever and unexpected than the last. Thankfully there are more Dungeon books and I am going to order all of them. I suggest you do the same. It's not everyday you run into a graphic novel that is this bloody good.
Lovers of independent comics, fantasy, or simple laugh will not be disappointed.