Monday, June 11, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #162: Dungeon: Monstres, Vol. 4: Night of the Ladykiller by Sfar, Trondheim, Vermot-Desroches, & Yoann

Dungeon Fortnight #11

The Monstres books can be miscellaneous -- they were originally entirely separate books in France, and there's no reason for them to come neatly two-by-two for American publication. So I think the folks at NBM generally just keep them in publication order (like the stories in The Crying Giant) or look for something thematic to yoke them together, like the two stories about women in Heartbreaker (or the two automaton-themed stories coming up in The Great Animator).

Night of the Ladykiller is perhaps the most miscellaneous of the Monstres books, combining two stories with very different casts, tones, and segments of the timeline. So I'm not going to even try to yoke them together cleverly: they're separate, and I'll treat them separately.

Up front is Night of the Ladykiller (La Nuit du Tombeur), with art by the creator with the single longest name in the Dungeon series, Jean-Emmanuel Vermot-Desroches. It's set during the Early Years days, focusing on Hyacinthe's necromancer friend Horus.

We open with Horus, browbeating his fellow students into letting his friend Alcibiades live in their lodgings, generally only open to necromancy students.  But the main plot is implied by the title: suddenly, a bunch of young women each accuse Horus of seducing and impregnating them. He's never seen any of them before in his life, and assumes they're the victim of some spell. He might be able to avoid most of them, but one is the daughter of the rich and powerful Duke of Hogsworth, and the city guard will make him answer in that case -- luckily, she's deeply in love with Horus (or with whoever she thinks he is), and the Duke lets them get quickly married.

So far, so good, but Horus chases another young woman (Hyacinthe's future wife Elise) at night while visiting Hyacinthe's father's castle -- and doesn't recall it at all in the morning. The magicians surmise that Horus is being hypnotized and controlled secretly by some other, mysterious magician. They come up with a complicated plan to counter-hypnotize Horus with the aid of a corpse and smoke out the villain -- which actually works, though not as they expect.

And Horus comes out of it very well -- not just the new wife and riches, but increased magical power and knowledge. Of course, this being Dungeon, he had to keep his friends in the dark to achieve that, and ignore many crimes.

This is another Dungeon story that uses sex as an occasion for jokes: Horus's seduction techniques, as we see it, is of the supposedly humorous relentless-pursuit type, a la Pepe Le Pew. (I'm calling it "seduction," since all of the women are very satisfied and want desperately to see him again afterward, but other words aren't out of the question.) As usual, sex is what destroys all rational thought -- here mostly for women, though we usually see that irresistible impulse hit men in other stories. It's amusing as long as you don't think about it too much -- unfortunately, to write about these books is inherently to think about them too much.

Vermot-Desroches brings perfectly decent art to this story: his work looks to me right up the middle of the Dungeon style, without anything in particular that stands out to me. (But I've said, many times, that I have no art training and am often bad at talking coherently about it.)

And then on the B-side is Ruckus at the Brewers (Du Random chez les Brasseurs), with art by the creator with the shortest credit in Dungeon history, Yoann. This one is Parade-level silly, sending the lovable but mostly useless monster Grogro off from the Dungeon (during the Zenith days) to get a shipment of beer from the nearby rabbit village of Zeootamaxim. He meets another adventurer along the way, and the two team up confusingly for various exploits.

Grogro is deeply stupid and utterly incompetent, so it doesn't go well. It does get funny, though: he's the kind of naif where every random stupid thing he does turns out just fine for him, even if it causes massive havoc all around him. In the end, he does get back to the Dungeon with the beer, as he was supposed to -- making this one of the very few examples of someone accomplishing what he wanted to in any of the Dungeon books.

Yoann's art is in some kind of painted color -- a little darker and muddier than you'd expect from such a sunny, silly story, but it entirely works.

And one last continuity note: Ruckus at the Brewers also features a certain small red rabbit, who the Zeeotamaxim locals try to get Grogro to kill as a devil. He does not succeed, and we will see that rabbit later, under a new name.

All in all, these are two pleasant but minor Dungeon stories: these are the sidebar stories that Monstres is supposed to be the home for (but isn't always), stories that are well-told but entirely off the main line of the overall saga.

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