The final entry in a long-running series of funny animal fantasy, Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon: Twilight – The End of Dungeon (a href=http://nbmpub.com/>NBM) is probably not the volume to use as an entry point to this mature readers graphic novel series.
For those who’ve followed this ribald set of satiric French comics through its multiple volumes and permutations (Zenith, Early Years, Parade, Monstres and Twilight), The End of Dungeon provides a choppy but ultimately satisfying finale. Divided into two chronological tales, “High Septentrion” and “The End of Dungeon”), the graphic album takes place on the planet Terra Amata after it has exploded into a multitude of floating islets that a villainous Dark Entity is reassembling for its own dire purposes.
The volume’s first tale opens with a brief moment of quiet before “destruction and cosmic chaos” burst in as two of our four main players, the mystical dragon Dust King and a scarlet fanged rabbit named Marvin the Red, enter a bar only to find there’s no air in the place. The Dark Entity, in its zeal to conquer the planet, has sent an army promising breathable air to all who surrender.
Aided by Zakutu, the zaftig bird-beaked daughter of the Great Khan, and wielding the so-called Objects of Destiny, Marvin travels to a place not yet under the Entity’s sway, a land of elephants called (amusingly enough) Babar. Complicating matters, the mystical ring used to transport Marvin and Zakutu has the side effect of making the two switch bodies each time it’s used, much the delight of horny reprobate Marvin.
For readers unfamiliar with these characters, the body switching can get perplexing. Sfar and Trondheim assume a readership familiar with all the nooks and crannies of their universe and have too much story to cram into volume four to do much backtracking. At times, they’ll skip from scene to scene so frenetically that at first you wonder if a page of story didn’t slip away in the process of translation. Too, the increased focus on plot resolution comes at the expense of those satiric elements that made earlier volumes more than a parody of D-&-D fantasizing. But Twilight’s core characters remain so amusing you follow them to series end.
Second entry, “The End of Dungeon,” follows Zakutu’s father Herman and the Dust King into the final battle against the Entity. The book’s climax is a bit more straightforward, though there remains a lot of body switching, this time by the Dark Entity (with a brief appearance by Zakuta in Marvin’s bod). The volume’s final page shows (as does the back cover) the ruins of the title Dungeon with a tree growing within it. “In time, nothing is inscribed forever,” we’re told, Sobering words for any writer or artist.
As with many of the Dungeon volumes, the two stories are illustrated by separate artists: Alfred and Mazan, neither of which was familiar to this reader. Their cartoony styles are close enough to not be distracting, though Mazan displays a slightly lighter hand. In a series like this, you need to be capable of drawing small comic character moments and fully-stuffed bloody battle sequences, and both artists are up to the task. Twisted heroic fantasy and funny animals – what’s not to like?