Friday, April 10, 2009

World of the Dragonlords

Okay, truth be told, I tend to be kind of a purist ("bigot," some might unkindly suggest) as far as my taste in Disney comics goes: anything non-duck-related is hateful to me, and the canon for me will always consist of Barks and Rosa. I occasionally enjoy the odd work by another writer (if I had to choose a distant third, I'd go with Marco Rota), but I always consider them kind of...unofficial.

Still, with Gemstone sadly dead in the water and Disney comics in the US looking like a non-starter for the foreseeable future, I thought that perhaps I would try to expand my horizons a little bit. I had never had any interest in this here Dragonlords book before, but I figured if I was GOING to give it a shot, it would make sense to do it NOW, before it goes out of print and becomes difficult and expensive to find, as has happened with Rosa's seminal Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. And I decided that, come hell or high water, I was going to like it or dislike it on its own terms, without making perhaps-unfair comparisons to my favorites.

So, the story: Scrooge, Donald, and HDL are transported to this alternate world where humans are being oppressed by orc/ogre-type creatures called morgs, where they end up teaming up with the human resistance movement. The idea that the entire WORLD has been overrun seems highly dubious, both logistically and in terms of what we see depicted: must everything be a do-or-die existential crisis, even when that makes little sense? The answer, apparently, is yes. A fantasy epic of this nature seems like a dubious proposition within the confines of the Disney comic, inasmuch as one is permitted to depict death or real violence extremely sparingly if at all. I have to admit, though, Erickson does a reasonable job of it--the exigencies never feel particularly limiting.

I've never cared for the loosey-goosey artistic style favored by Italian duck arists, as best exemplified by the late Romano Scarpa. But once I got into World of the Dragonlords, I didn't have any great problem with Cavazzano's artwork. It'll never be my favorite, but it's all right, and some of his panoramic splash panels of cities and battles are actually pretty impressive.

In spite of myself, then, I was actually enjoying this book quite a lot for the first half or so. There were occasional clumsy bits of exposition, and the odd plot twist that relied too heavily on convenient happenstance, but nothing too off-putting. It had a genuinely epic feel to it, and it was quite a page-turner. But then, well, the story built very quickly to its climax, and it felt like kind of a letdown. The whole thing reads VERY quickly, which is okay except that it ultimately feels insubstantial. Don Rosa (okay okay, I'm doing what I said I wouldn't do, but it seems relevant) would cram so much detail into fifteen pages that his stories would feel much longer and more substantial than their length alone would indicate. Erickson and Cavazzano don't, and their work suffers for it: one thinks this whole book could have been much better at twice the length. As it stands, the build-up seems insufficient, none of the human characters (except perhaps Jute, the annoying spykid) receive the development they need, and the climactic battle doesn't feel anywhere near as climactic as it should. Doing the penultimate chapter without dialogue is cool, but it doesn't accomplish much. And it must be said, not killing off the baby dragon in the end felt like a massive failure of nerve. Even in kid lit, is it so much to ask for SOME tangible demonstration that war, no matter how just, still has its price?

Still, the fact that I actually *wanted* the story to be longer could and should be read as praise of a sort. For all my complaints, I can't say that it ever bored me (I especially enjoyed the short "meanwhile, back in Duckburg" vignettes, which detail the travails of a morg stranded in regular-world). Kids would probably get a kick out of it. Because that's what it amounts to, in the end: Barks and Rosa, at their best, wrote richly multilayered stories that can be enjoyed on multiple levels by both kids and adults. World of the Dragonlords, on the other hand, is strictly a mostly well-told but never transcendent children's story.

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Blogger Pan Miluś said...

I love this story :)

August 3, 2013 at 6:29 AM  

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