Tony Fyler advises more dragon in your system.
Dragons Riders of Berk is always a bit ‘uber’ in its scope. There’s usually a pair of strands in the main story – an invader or ne’er-do-well threatening the peace of Berk, and a big, big dragonny danger for our intrepid, Harry Potter-style crew of young dragon-trainers to tackle in their own, highly imitable style.
In Dragons Riders of Berk #6, there’s an invasion by a ne’er-do-well and a big, big dragonny danger!
I know – shocking.
The main story this time though has a bit of oomph to it, delving back into Berkish history, and in particular the personal family history of Stoick the Vast, leader of Berk’s Viking population (and father of troublesome boy-genius Hiccup). There’s also more than a touch of Moby Dick about the whole affair – a giant underwater leviathan, a crew driven on by a limb-impoverished monomaniac determined to defeat it, a mutiny by the first officer, and a finale that locks leviathan and monomaniac in a deadly battle from which neither is likely to emerge victorious.
There’s also a sense of the writer, Simon Furman, feeling a bit frustrated at the challenge of freshness, because the tracks we follow here are familiar pretty much to the point of predictability, a thing almost explicitly acknowledged in the panels. The set-up is fairly straightforward: introductory dragon-chase so we can get re-acquainted with our dragon-crew, mystery, Hiccup talks to Stoick, Stoick expressly forbids him from investigating it, Hiccup follows his own instincts and goes anyway, danger ensues. But to save the thing from banging its dragonny head against a rock wall, there is a pleasing innovation here of shifting from the world above, where Stoick and his men have big dragonny trouble to the world below, the underworld, where, having investigated mysterious shenanigans in the caves of the Jotunn, Hiccup and the dragon-riding gang find nefarious doings going on. It takes a considerable amount of artwork from Iwan Nazif (who in contrast to Furman, seems to be having the time of his life delivering swooping panels and pages of dragons in flight) to connect the threads, and that can either feel like padding, or like a great opportunity to give your eyeballs a treat, depending on your perspective. From the point of view of a young reader, it’s likely that the colourful and very dynamic panels will provide at the very least a terrific spur to an afternoon of imaginative dragon-riding roleplay. It’s pretty much only from a technically-too-old-for-this-stuff grumpy perspective that you’re likely to think ‘Oh, and back we go again.’
There’s a certain inevitability in the end of the story, but as I say, there’s an inevitability to Moby Dick too, and that doesn’t stop people reading it. What’s more, there’s a sense of knowing more about Berk as it used to be, and as it’s become that you get from this backstory-rich main story. And – probably importantly – Hiccup doesn’t escape the consequences of his parental disobedience, ending up on the business end of some peculiarly Viking chores.
The second, shorter story, with slightly more streetwise art by Arianna Florean, follows on from and depends on the first for its premise of bringing the industrial revolution to a dragon economy. There’s a slightly Pratechetty vision from Furman in this shorter story, of using dragons in the process of smelting ore for swords and shields. Hiccup, of course, like all good engineers, has factored in everything but human boredom and the capacity of the bored to poke things with sticks, just to see what happens.
You can guess what happens, right?
As a grown-up, the shorter story feels fresher, and more rooted in the comedy of characters and the inevitability of human nature. So you could certainly argue that issue #6 has something for everyone – dragontastic adventure and backstory for the younger readers at whom it’s actually aimed in the main story, and a wry chuckle for their older compatriots (or – who are we kidding? – more likely parents). Whatever you buy it for, it’s got plenty of the vibe of the original movies – so where’s the bad? Bottom line, your life is fine and dandy, but it could always be better with a little more dragon in it.
Get some extra dragon in your system today – get down to your comic-book supplier now.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk