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Dungeon: Monstres Vol 4.—Night Of The Ladykiller
posted September 13, 2011


Creators: Lewis Trondheim, Joann Sfar, Yoann, Walter, JE Vermot-Desroches
Publishing Information: NBM, softcover, 96 pages, 2011, $14.99.
Ordering Numbers: 9781561636082 (ISBN13)

imageFor all that he's become a major creator in Europe, Lewis Trondheim has also made his mark in the recent history of comics publishing. The magnificent comic book series The Nimrod showed once and for all that the alternative comic book was headed out the door, while the failure of his Donjon project to take hold as a comic book series a few years later suggested the same for independent comics as we'd come to know them. Thankfully, NBM has found a format that's taken hold with the wryly-told, bouncily-drawn, multiple creative-teams, genre-bending series of series: bookshelf books combining two albums' worth of material. I like them quite a bit, and am grateful for NBM's persistence, even if at time it feels like eating slices of pizza with knife and fork on fancy china.

Volume four in the Monstres series places its revolving spotlight on two apparently prominent supporting characters -- I have little memory of either, but I can be an inattentive reader that way -- Horus and Grogro. The volume's two stories capture the range of what the series has to offer. The first story is a adult-themed, dryly amusing story of how Horus was accused of impregnating several women despite having no memory of same. The second is more of a romp following Grogro as he tries to run an errand to fetch beer from a nearby village. The first story, "Night Of The Ladykiller," features visuals in what readers will now recognize as a kind of Donjon house style; the second, "Ruckus At The Brewer" features beautiful art from the artist Yoann that has the sheen of animation cells. Both are written by Trondheim with Joann Sfar.

The stories are united in a a kind of collective willfulness to at all times take the piss out of high-minded fantasy, but have little in common besides. Despite the beautiful art I thought the second story dragged a bit narrative-wise, clinging to standard adventure tropes a little too closely. "Night Of The Ladykiller" lacks the smooth delivery of "Ruckus," but its disjointed pacing feeds into the story's offbeat, junky charm. It feels at times like watching a college-aged theater troupe improvising between set pieces. (I love the ease of the joke below, for example; it's what the character must have been thinking and it's the absolute worst thing you could shout out when confronted by a pregnant girl and her father.) The narrative's displayed whimsy in careening this way or that, dumping some plot points while gently cradling others, helps it avoid the tinge of disappointment one might feel with the more standard Warner Brothers cartoon outcome that seem predestined in the second story's opening panels. Like a standard monster-filled dungeon, these stories seem to work much better when you don't have any idea what lies down the next corridor.