Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #156: Dungeon: Zenith, Vol. 3: Back in Style by Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim, and Boulet

Dungeon Fortnight #5

This is still the Zenith, but not for long. The vultures are circling the Dungeon, and all of the Keeper's wiles can't keep them away forever. But at least Herbert gets to go home: Back in Style.

First there's Delacour (a businessman-cum-swindler who has the same visual relationship to Herbert that Gyro Gearloose has to Donald) -- he wants Herbert's sword, he wants the Dungeon, he wants anything he can get his hands on. And he has random invoices to take them, though oddly he seems to be able to just write a new one, which makes them seemingly less useful as contracts between two parties. (The Delacour plot also implies there's a larger system of justice, or maybe just law, that the people of Terra Amata need to worry about -- it may have been simpler, and more in keeping with the series, if the source of his enforcing "repo-men" were less specific.) As usual, Sfar and Trondheim don't bother with a lot of background, but just throw complications in and trust that the dialogue will make everything clear.

Delacour may have gotten a financial foothold in the Dungeon because of the impending wedding: Princess Isis's father, the King of the Kochaks, is demanding an immediate, expensive set of nuptials with the Keeper at a time when the budget is already squeezed.

And then there's Herbert himself, who keeps trying to steal Isis away, elope and marry her himself. Or is that the Keeper's secret plan after all? Herbert says it is, and Isis seems to be happy to go along with him, but we never see the Keeper actually approve of it.

It all goes wrong, of course -- even if that was the Keeper's plan, it's more of a Herbert plan to begin with, and Herbert's plans always go wrong. By the end of the first album collected here (Un Mariage A Part), the Keeper and his loyalists have been exiled from the Dungeon. And the second album (Retour en Fanfare) sees them trying complicated schemes to get it back, mostly relying on Herbert's status as the exiled Duke of Craftiwich as a way to get a fighting force to win back the Dungeon.

That works about as well as any of the other plots do, and Back in Style ends, leaving the Zenith series up in the air: was this the end of Dungeon? There are a lot of years and a lot of changes -- the entire planet stops rotating sometime in the middle, for one minor, insignificant point -- between this and the book set next in time, but it's beginning to look like we'll never find out.

For this book, Boulet -- he's one of those Euro-cartoonists who only use one name; we'll meet a bunch more in the Monstres series, coming up -- takes over art chores from co-writer Trondheim. He brings a lot of energy to these two very action-packed stories, and handles the character work well, too. And it's certainly funny along the way, even if this prefigures the everything-going-to-hell plots of the Twilight series more seriously than the Zenith books before it did.

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