Tuesday, 8 June 2010

LLC Recommends: Dungeon Quest Book One

The first volume of Joe Daly's Dungeon Quest is a surreal treat of a comic. Following the narrative style of a classic roleplaying adventure, but with American stoners instead of fantasy archetypes as the protagonists, this is a story which anyone who has ever dabbled with D&D and/or recreational drugs will love. It's also a beautifully drawn book full of absurd looking characters and rich, involving landscapes.

The star of Dungeon Quest is bored teenager, Millennium Boy, a curious chap with a light bulb shaped head and a passion for magic. With nothing on TV, he just ups and leaves his house on a D&D style quest. As with all roleplaying adventures, his first job is to assemble a party. He starts with his pal, Steve, a lazy dropout who finds it hard to get off the couch. Later they hook up with a sensitive jock, the fantastically named Lash Penis, and the silent but deadly (ahem) archer, Nerdgirl. As they move further away from the centre of their suburban town, the
boundaries between the world that we know and the world of the fantastic begin to blur into one. Where once everything was parked cars and paved streets, suddenly molemen and pirate graveyards jostle for space with the hobos and liquor stores of our reality.

It's this hazy crossing of the lines between the real and the imagined that makes the book so good. Suffused with sick, deadpan humour, graphic fantasy violence and more than a little pothead style mysticism, this is a comic that isn't easy to pigeonhole. It's fantasy, but it's also a classic slacker yarn which wears its underground influences (Crumb, Burns, Clowes) as proudly as it does its nerdier D&D/Tolkien ones. It shares certain similarities with C.F.'s brilliant comic, Powr Mastrs, but is more grounded than the trippy, alien world of New China that C.F. creates.

There's plenty of cool visuals and weird fun to be had here, but Daly's characters are the real entertainment. Vacuous potheads, hobo shamen and skeletal pirates - all of them (bar Nerdgirl who doesn't say anything) have distinct, funny voices. Daly really gets slacker speak and he revels in the joy that wasters take in discussing the banal. But of course this isn't Clerks, there are monsters to be killed, cool treasure to find and kick-ass weapons and armour to kit up with. So just as you're getting comfortable with the mundane BOOM! Daly smashes you in the face with the extraordinary. It's masterful stuff.

As an artist he rocks. Funny looking folk with fat heads and imposing bodies. Heavy skys. Thick black lines. A BEAUTIFUL fantasy-style map. It's comical, but it's got heavy body and real soul.These are good meaty pictures. Oh yes.

Book One ends just as the party are about to move into the foreboding gloom of Firebug Forest, intent on delivering the "Penis Sheath of Disturbance" to the mysterious forest hermit, Bromede! It's a cliffhanger and a half. Bring on Book Two!

Stuck for something to read? Click the LLC Recommends tag below for more of my favourites!

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