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Dungeon Parade, Vol. 1
posted May 9, 2007
 

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Creator: Lewis Trondheim, Joann Sfar
Publishing Information: NBM, softcover, 96 pages, April 2007, $9.95
Ordering Numbers: 1561634956 (ISBN10), 9781561634958 (ISBN13)

If comics were to suddenly decide that pleasing me were to be its primary objective, there would be a lot more books like Dungeon Parade Vol. 1 out there. I've always had a bit of difficulty tracking exactly how NBM was releasing this work. I know they tried black and white comic books, and have settled in on a series of smaller than usual graphic novels at manga-equivalent prices. I think some of the confusion comes from the fact that the original Donjon albums are being released in semi-haphazard fashion: six different series, with a lot of different artists being brought in, even on those series that were supposed to be limited to one or two talents.

imageFortunately, I just sort of buy these in whatever form I can find them. The Dungeon books are comedies built around conventions of the fantasy genre at its most rigid and ridiculous, centered but certainly not limited to a dungeon of the gaming variety lorded over by a sitcom-style bad boss and populated by a group of vaguely disgruntled, feckless employees -- primarily the hyper-competent dragon Marvin and the wimpy everyduck Herbert. This book features two European album-length stories. The first involves a Disneyland-style dungeon arising next to our characters'; the second is a goof on a magic wish-granting lantern that involves a field trip. There's not much more to it than that.

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What I like about most of these books is that they feature a kind of humor grounded in set pieces and crossed motivations that's almost entirely absent from American comic books since Peter Bagge quit doing Hate on a regular basis. No matter who is doing the art, the comics are drawn in humorous fashion, which softens the horrifying outcome of violent death that is frequently on the table for everyone but the leads. It's sort of like a second stage Warner's cartoon, or the way The Muppet Show felt like postgraduate work after its "cast" developed characters and routines on the educational shows. There are inspired bits of nonsense, such as Marvin's cooking in the first story and the eminently sensible cowardice of the town folk in the second. Unless you greatly prefer comedy that has no relation to a fictional narrative, have an automatic gag reflex when it comes to fantasy work of any kind, or have little patience for what are essentially comedic stage scenes, I can't imagine these books not appealing on some level.