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‘Dragons: Riders of Berk - Dragon Down’ – Graphic Novel Review

DreamWorks' first venture into the graphic novel business brings us the continuing adventures of Hiccup and his friends in the How To Train Your Dragon universe.  Written by Scott Furman, with pencils by Iwan Nazif, coloring by Nestor Pereyra and Digikore, and lettering by David Manley-Leach,  DreamWorks made a wise marketing decision in choosing this series to start with.  Not only was the movie a money maker, it was very good and I very much look forward to seeing the second.  I understand this comic was supposed to be out over a year ago, but knowing how hard it is to produce a comic, I can only sympathize. But, on to the dragons . . .

Hiccup and his dragon rider friends are faced with a dangerous and emotional situation when Snotlout’s dragon Hookfang begins to shed flaming scales; the entire village is imperiled.  Isolated in a cave to protect everyone, Hookfang becomes despondent and leaves. Hiccup suggests a search party to the distraught Snotlout and off the kids go. Unbeknownst to them, a rival Viking has captured Hookfang to use the dragon as bait to catch an even bigger prize – a dragon trainer.  What happens next . . . well . . . let’s just say Hiccup and his friends once more show their bravery and teamwork.

Having read it twice, I decided that I needed to review it from two different perspectives: adult and child.

Looking at the beautiful cover and title pages through adult eyes, it was a great disappointment to open it up to see the quality of the art work does not match the animation. I have to admit DreamWorks set such a high bar, it would be tough for any artist to match what they had on screen.  Don’t get me wrong, the art work is very good and the story very fun, but once you’ve seen the movie, it sets up almost unrealistic expectations. As for the story, it is simple and to the point with only a few confusing pieces of dialogue.  For example, when the rival Vikings capture Hookfang, they make shouting noises at the dragon which, after a couple of reads, I eventually interpreted as them trying to drive the dragon into the cave. It might have been better for the dialogue to have been a little clearer in that instance.

From a child’s perspective (ten years old and under), this is a fun, colorful, and absolutely delightful, little tale of the world’s most famous dragon riders. With its simple story and message of team work and standing up for your friends, it should be a great way for parents to get their kids to read.

Madeleine Holly-Rosing is the writer/creator of the Steampunk webcomic Boston Metaphysical Society and its companion novellas. Please visit the website to learn more.  

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