Martin John reviews Fantagraphics Books' Dungeon Quest Vol. 1 and 2!
Credits & Solicit Info:
One day Millennium Boy decided to grab his hobo stick, his bandanna, and his Swiss Army knife, bid his mom goodbye, and head off on a quest for adventure. Joined by his best friend Steve (weapon: baseball bat; clothing: wife beater, cargo pants and sandals), they soon find themselves in a violent altercation with two other adventure seekers. It ends badly for their antagonists ("Whoa, check it out, dude! You actually knocked this dude's brain right out of his cranium!") and Millennium Boy and Steve become the proud owners of fancy weapons upgrades (a crowbar and a steel chain). So on they trek, and the next inductee to their group is the muscle-bound Lash Penis.
And then things start getting weird!
Readers of 2009's Red Monkey Double Happiness Book will recognize Joe Daly's delightfully unique stoner/philosopher dialogue and distinctive character designs, but the hilarious over-the-top Role Playing Game action (complete with periodic updates for each character's status in ten criteria, including "dexterity," "intelligence," and "money") propel this new story into a heretofore unachieved action-comedy realm. By the end of this book (the first chapter of a projected four-part epic), the trio has been joined by Nerdgirl the Archer, Lash Penis has nearly had his arm cut off, they've acquired a whole new nifty bag of tricks, and the menaces have become increasingly surreal and lethal. Where will it end?
Ever heard of Joe Daly? I hadn't either until someone I follow on twitter mentioned that they love Dungeon Quest. Being a complete spaz, I thought he was talking about Trondheim's Dungeon and said that I loved it too. Fantagraphics, the publisher of Dungeon Quest, tweeted back saying that they hoped I liked the second volume of the book. It was then that I realized I had no idea what it was about and had been talking out my ass. I took a quick look through Amazon to take a look at the books. While they had a nice little figurine on the cover, I dismissed them for looking so sober and serious. What an idiot!!! I didn't even notice the figures on the covers were buck-naked.
Last Wednesday I was walking through my local shop, the Beguiling in Toronto, and saw Book 2 of Dungeon Quest looking at me. The little naked man on the cover of the book drew me in and I ended up flipping through a couple of pages. It looked interesting enough so I found the first volume and purchased it. You can't go that wrong if you're only paying thirteen bucks for a nice thick book. The next day I was back at the store begging for Book 2.
Dungeon Quest is unlike anything I have ever seen in the comic world. The closest comparison is some old comic strips in Dungeon Magazine from the mid-eighties but Dungeon Quest takes the level of insanity in those strips and adds +100 in delirium bonuses. If you know a manic dice roller, go out and purchase them both editions without thought. Yhey will love you forever.
What is Dungeon Quest? It is the journey of a balloon-headed little bastard named Millennium Boy. He decides that his life is too mundane and that watching television blows so he raids his chest and dons his adventure gear. His gear: a bandana, a hobo stick, a Swiss army knife, a swimming costume and Wellington boots. Yup, you hear me right, a swimming costume and Wellington boots. As in any epic journey, one man turns into a group. Millennium Boy manages to recruit his slacker friend Steve, the poet/jock Lash Penis, and the strangely quiet Nerdgirl. Together they set out on a trip into the Fireburg Forest to find adventure.
The story sounds a little like Bilbo Baggins' quest, right? Well, take Bilbo and drag him through a funhouse filled with drag queens and stand-up comedians from the eighties and you might end up with Dungeon Quest. The filth that spews from this book will make you blanch and make you laugh your lungs up. This book is damned funny. Most of the funniest bits comes from the insane things that spout out of Millennium Boy's mouth and the insanity of the situations the characters find themselves in. For example Steve and Millennium Boy's second upgrade (they power up!) comes in the form of Moleoc armor, which leaves them marching around in furry costumes with antennas attached to their heads. I could go on, but I would ruin half the fun of reading it.
For the four-sided die adventurers, the books are filled with maps, spellbooks, quests, puzzles and magic. However, the maps share highways and mystical forests, the spellbooks are taken from the laps of drunks, the quests are filled with dramatic fights wherein characters get their arms partially severed and barely notice, the puzzles intrigue and the magic comes in the form of inhalable drugs. Book One serves as an introduction to the world and the characters. It had me laughing delightfully to myself at the absurdity of it all. Prepare yourself for characters that cuss, are anatomically correct and fight like demons. Book Two is the second leg of the quest, wherein Millennium Boy, Steve, Lash and Nerdgirl are involved in several battles, solve riddles and forage for food as they search for their quest items.
Joe's art reminds me of a Charles Burns pen and ink line but with a healthy dose of cartoony goodness thrown in to accentuate the brutal fights and comedic moments. Joe does a fantastic job in capturing the meandering movement of a D&D quest but adds in moments of quiet introspection so that you can check in with the characters and see how they are doing.
I am prepared to rave about this Dungeon Quest to whoever will listen. Joe Daly is charged with the insanity of Eddie Murphy in Raw and is dashing out pages of romantic dungeon adventures that need to be read. Don't just stand there and look at the figures on the cover with their prominently displayed penises. Buy a copy and dig in. Joe Daly and his work deserves every bit of it.
Review by: Martin John
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