I tried, I really tried: as a reviewer, I sometimes get the opportunity to read graphic novels way off my radar. The comics world is so huge, just in English, just in America, so that one sub-community may not even know what another sub-community is up to. And then, with a book like Dungeon, from nos amis en France, that displacement is, or can be, even more jarring. Such is the case with this book—I’m not even sure what to call it, and the title page and formatting doesn’t help. I think Dungeon is the series? And this book was originally two books in France: Twilight and The End of Dungeon.
In any case, it’s volume 4, and I have no idea what’s going on. It’s set in the future, in a galaxy far far away. Populated by walking and talking animals. Mostly rabbits? One of the main characters is a rabbit. Who is red? I don’t know why. The other main character is a….dragon? But not a big one? Or a fire-breathing lizard of some sort, who is kinda tubby. And, there’s a third main character who is female, though the only way I know that is she wears a dress? And I think she’s a cat?
The premise is…well, that a world/planet has blown up? And pieces of is are drifting away in space? And therefore oxygen is in short supply and becomes a commodity? And so…the rabbit people get bullied by these other guys, and the red rabbit and the dragon fly around on big flying animal-things between planet-pieces and fight those bad guys? Kinda? Except oxygen doesn’t seem to be a problem when they’re flying?
Anyways, not knowing what’s going on shouldn’t have to be a problem. Most ongoing series tend to either give you a ‘so far’ page or two or, better, the story is so accessible that the smaller details tend not to matter. And I say this as a reader who doesn’t like a lot of explication at all. Plus, the translation seems to be a little off. That, and/or the original text/dialogue must be awful in the original French.
Frustrated and ready to give up on any kind of review, I consulted with Jason, the CB editor and wise man. Here’s our (edited) online convo:
John: Hey: That Dungeon book, I just don’t know if I’d be fair to it. I honestly was lost….it’s volume 4 and when I try and write about it, all I can do is be annoyed that they didn’t do a good job for first-time readers….I kinda also think it’s not that good, but me not knowing the first three volumes might be a not-fair thing….but it‘s just kinda dumb and I’m not sure the translation is good? or I just don’t get french humor sometimes?
Jason: I like the series in general but it’s extremely weird.
John: Yeah I’m lost, which annoys me, since some other series would still be accessible.
Jason: It’s not extremely well translated, and it’s weird and kind of obscure. I started reading this volume and quickly lost patience.
John: ok whew…
Jason: “Obscure” is the best word for it, I think.
John: Yes. Just seems like the NBM editors in America dropped the ball….or something. like they could’ve packaged it better. Or put the whole series in one big book?
Jason: That may be coming. Dungeon was planned as this enormous sprawling saga. I read and liked a few of them, but I was always struggling with the feeling that I didn’t quite understand what happened.
So there you go, from someone who has actually read the whole series. If you’re one of those comics readers who (mystifyingly) doesn’t really care about story, and you like the artwork you see here, then go for it. If you really really like the artwork, and are curious about the story, I’d hunt down the first book first.
Or you can wait for the maybe-collected volume to come. Or, just go on to other things.