This is one of the most unique, befuddling and yet fascinating books I’ve read in a long time.
Dungeon: Twilight v2 is just one chapter of a vast canvas crested by European comics superstar Lewis Trondheim. Apparently Trondheim has created the Dungeon as a vast platform on which stories of different time periods are shown. There’s the Early Years and the Zenith phases of the Dungeon; as you might expect from the title of this book, the stories in this sequence of graphic novels takes place at the twilight of the Dungeon’s existence.
It’s cool that everything that happens in this book feels like it’s part of a larger canvas, because without that element of a larger picture, everything in this book would be immensely confusing for a newcomer to the stories like me. It certainly starts on a downbeat note, as our hero the Dust King finds himself in despair at losing both his arms and becoming blind. These events apparently take place in volume one, which is not recapped for new readers. From there we witness the Dust King’s travels with his friend and fellow warrior Marvin the Red. The pair and other friends of theirs end up in some very bizarre and unique situations, events that seem very odd to a new reader but which somehow feel right due to the characters’ reactions to them. The larger picture of the Dungeon seems to be implied by the characters’ meta-stories, in which we get a feel of their immensely complex back stories.
For instance, an extended sequence in this book takes place in the mysterious land of Poopooloo, where our heroes are beset by the danger of three billion invisible Olfs. If you don’t know what Olfs are – I certainly have no idea – everything follows a certain kind of internal logic in the story. As the story progresses, the reality of the Olfs and the ways to stop them becomes more clear, and the Trondheim’s story flows in a direction that feels logical in terms of its internal logic.
This really is an odd graphic novel. There are no characters or settings that readers can grasp onto as our small ghost of normality in the midst of strangeness. The characters all look very strange, and the bizarre world of floating places on which they live is equally bizarre. The artwork by Sfar and Kerascoet has a scratchy European vibrant oddness to it that makes this volume feel completely otherworldly.
And yet somehow the most human of emotions come to the surface in this book as things that readers can hold onto. There are the universal negative emotions of hate, anger, fear and despair aplenty in this book. But also, towards the end, there’s a warm sort of familial feel to the book. By the end, things become unexpectedly domestic, and larger points are made about how important it is to change painful traditions. As the cover (featuring Marvin the Red surrounded by happy baby creatures) implies, no matter how deep the turmoil they might experience, characters can find peace by surrounding themselves with the ones they love. Even the comic’s final panel has a sort of melancholy poignancy that feels fresh and interesting.
Dungeon: Twilight vol. 2 is an odd, unique and strangely haunting graphic novel. The book’s wistful ending and bizarre creatures are memorable in ways that I never expected them to be.