Friday, May 31, 2013

"Definitely done with this." : a look at Penultimate Quest

For all the influences popular culture held on me during my formative years, somehow I evaded most of the fantasy genre's tendrils - the likes of Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons; even today, I'm not interested in the RPG video game genre (I have a few sitting in my home, untouched). Despite this, I recently aided a Kickstarter fundraiser devoted to a fantasy-as-viewed-through-popular-culture comic book. Said project was (and is) Penultimate Quest by Lars Brown.

In book one, we're introduced to a variety of characters (most notably Harald) who find themselves in a land where deep, endless dungeons await below ground. It seems as though everyone in the area is devoted to braving the dungeons, dying, coming back to life and trying again. No one seems able to reall how they came to be in this state of affairs. It is, essentially, as though a cast of characters from an online RPG game experienced an existential crisis. Some of the dungeon crawlers want to escape this nightmarish existence, yet they seem bound by fate.

Despite my aforementioned lack of familiarity with many of the fantasy genre tropes - which a "meta" project like this surely demands - I am familiar with the work of Lars Brown, who previously wrote North World (collected in three volumes via Oni Press). Both series meld 21st century aesthetics with the fantasy genre - creating a sort of Middle-Earth by way of Portland. He's also fine at world-building - in North World, there were frequent allusions to the world outside of the small town where the stories were set; in Penultimate Quest, the nature of the world itself is a mystery, so Lars' earlier skills serve him well. The clear line artwork, appealing characters and quirky humour adds up to an entertaining diversion.

Penultimate Quest can be read online at Lars Brown's website.

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