cover image Dungeon Critters

Dungeon Critters

Natalie Riess and Sara Goetter. First Second, $22.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-1954

Anxious dog June; stolid Goro, a legged snake; flamboyant cat Rose; and self-assured frog Prince Chirp are the Dungeon Critters, a wisecracking, villain-fighting, dungeon-raiding group of anthropomorphic friends who roam a magical fantasy kingdom. A clue linking a plant necromancer with Prince Chirp’s lifelong archnemesis, the Baron, serves as an excuse for the team to don disguises and infiltrate the Baron’s next soiree. Soon, they are neck-deep in a madcap spree involving secret identities, monsters and thieves, relationships and rivalries, trials and treason, and even a bit of arson. Riess and Goetter create a lighthearted slapstick escapade that prioritizes jokes per page while playing with the conventions of fantasy and RPG adventures. The largely queer main cast (Rose and June give off a will-they/won’t-they vibe, Goro has a distant beau named Horseboy), with their complementary skills and personalities, create solid chemistry emphasized by cute character design and an amusing preponderance of meticulously assembled outfits. The panels are busy, both crammed with visual and textual jokes and filled with near-constant action, but this generally works in the book’s favor, maintaining a rollicking pace that covers the occasional plot hole. Jaunty, funny, and fun. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)