Dungeon: Monstres Vol. 3: HeartbreakerA comic review article by: Ace Masters
Dungeon: Monstres Volume 3: Heartbreaker, collecting two full-length original French stories written by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim, is somewhat of a mixed bag.
"Heartbreaker," the first story of the collection with artist Carlos Nine keeping this feature story from falling into the depths of bleakness that dungeons are known for, following the voluptuous assassin Alexandra as she details her many sexual escapades to the editor of the city newspaper. Then, on the editor's encouragement, she starts to chronicle her life story and how she became an assassin.
If the story had continued along this path, then it would have been stronger, but "Heartbreaker" abruptly changes and turns down a new path that leaves the reader confused and wondering if there is something missing. Once second Alexandra tells of her past, then she tries to kill the editor for some unknown reason -- supposedly a past act that needs avenging. She is subsequently robbed of her vengeance by the police, who are controlled by a former lover -- who quickly kills the editor, frames her for the murder and throws her into a dungeon. Suddenly the assassin's guild and the city elite are brought into this tangled web, but by the time the reader gets to this point, they may be more caught up with "How did we get here?" than what is actually going on.
The narrative of "Heartbreaker" is quite heartbreaking as it falls apart halfway through the story resulting in a the third act that'ss extremely lacking. Even a solid premise and good characterization don't carry the story. Carlos Nine, however, shines. His artwork brings the right feel and touches to the story. combining a gothic look with a surreality and what seem to be anthromorphic characters. The fact that you cannot tell exactly what each character easily could have distracted, but it actually is adds to the feel of the story.
The second story in this volume, "The Depths," with art by Patrice Killoffer, and colors by Walter and Killoffer, is the superior story, taking place in an underwater world and following a young anthromorphic aquatic teenage girl, Drowny, as she survives her family's slaughter, takes on the identity of one of her attackers and finds herself going down a path of violence -- a path she seems to excel at despite herself.
Her plan is to survive and escape, which never quite works out. Not only is she discovered by another solider -- who blackmails her for sex -- but she finds herself on missions for the Khan. When she does finally escape and goes for help, her own people act strangely. They deem her story to be "complicated," and order her to be tortured until she regrets the actions she took while masquerading as a soldier. She ultimately ends up escaping from her own people, returning to the Khan's fortress and leading one of his attacks on a city.
The writing is extremely good, even if it follows the standard formula and hits all the required marks; it does it so well as to make it seem fresh. Patrice Killoffer's artwork is exceptional on "The Depths." Smooth, vibrant, full of life and constantly flowing, it enhances an already strong and engaging story. If Carlos Nines artwork saves "Heartbreaker" from bleakness, Killoffer's take "The Depths" to another level.
"The Depths" has an open-ended conclusion, but how we get to the ending, and how well the story flows, makes it work.