Dungeon Twilight vol. 3: New Centurions – Joann Sfar, Lewis Trondheim

4 out of 5

The Twilight books keep getting stronger, rather the further away we get from having to stay linked to the Dungeon concept.

In the titular story, the character dynamic improvements continue, as classic Herbert now joins the fray, reteaming with Marvin / The Dust King and Marvin the Red – the two currently hanging out with other dragons – to retake The Black Fortress. Herbert and Dust King’s relationship is seasoned – they settle right back into camaraderie – with Marvin the Red taking over for the ignorant bravado of old school Herbert, and their now always present bat companion a source of earnestness and occasional emotional honesty, helping to add dashes of sincerity to the story as needed. This first part is a very “classic” feeling Dungeon adventure, as it escalates in a combination of randomness and organicness that only Sfar and Trondheim can effect. But it does have its hiccups: the transition from Herbert as evil dungeon ruler to his white-feathered, calm self I suppose occurred because he “gave up” his control of the world (leading to its splintering, I guess?), but it still feels like it could use some exposition; and for how happy The Dust King is to see him again, he does end up leaving his presence pretty suddenly at the end, in order to get us to the next book. Also, an oddly casual rape. It’s not on page, and the dialogue surrounding it does treat it seriously, but it’s seemingly only used for a plot transition point, dropped from the story after that sole mention, making it seem… not great, and a rather pointlessly abrubt inclusion.

The second story, Revolutions, is amazing. Its core conceit – that Marvin and Marvin get stuck on a cluster which is constantly turning, with gravity always in the same direction, requiring them to keep finding ways to stay on the cluster’s surface – is simple, but brilliant. It’s one of those bonkers concepts that other stories would have to bend over backwards to justify, but it just works here. We already blew up the world between pages last book, so one randomly functioning planetoid ain’t no thang. The race of bears the duo meets on this planet, and their weird class / social system that’s developed, are all of this same inspired creativity, with every new detail just adding to the pile of weirdness / hilarity / genius. Marvin the Red’s general horniness is now an established part of his character, reliable for some funny asides as he pursues one girl after the next, and that’s complemented by Dust King also rather enjoying himself in his own ways, with some minor (but clever) commentary added in regarding the structure of the society on this revolving planet.

Art-wise, two good additions: Kerascoet’s cramped, tight style gives book one a nervy, energetic feel; and Obion, on book two, has a looseness reminiscent of Sfar’s work, with Trondheim’s sense of comedic timing.