I have been hooked on Campfire graphic novels since I first read Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves: Reloaded. The Dusk Society had me even before I read page one. As soon as you open the book, you see the mission statement:
To entertain and educate young minds by creating unique illustrated books to recount stories of human values, to arouse curiosity in the world around us, and to inspire by tales of great deeds of unforgettable people.
Now maybe this was present in the first book I read and I am just more aware of it, I’m not sure, but I am a softy for anything that uses the words “entertain” and “educate” together in the same sentence (this harkens to a nice little theory I learned in library land called Stephenson’s Play Theory; to paraphrase, we learn and retain information better when it is presented in a fun format). Turn the page and see the line “Sitting around the Campfire, telling the story, were…” followed by a list of those who contributed to the graphic novel. Okay, I may be geeking out a bit, but I find that very cool.
The story begins with Miss Raven, our narrator, welcoming the newest member of the Dusk Society. No member is pictured; so it might be safe to assume that she is breaking the fourth wall and addressing the reader directly by including them in the story as a perspective new recruit to the society.
The Dusk Society is a secret organization formed by a former librarian, William Andarton, just after World War I. Their goal is to make sure that ancient magical weapons do not fall into the wrong hands; especially those of Pierceblood, a villain so evil that Dracula, Dr Frankenstein, and a whole host of other monsters all call him boss. While names are not mentioned for the original members of the Dusk Society, the illustrations provide a clue to their identities (hint: there is a certain Serbian-American inventor and a German-born theoretical physicist pictured among the group). The newest group of Dusk Society members; however, are a group of teenagers.
The story begins with a young boy having just been turned into a pile of dust. Our narrator, Miss Raven, alludes to the belief that our parents don’t always tell us everything. The next day, a la Breakfast Club, the newest Dusk Society members meet in detention and are quickly taught a crash course in how to survive a monster attack. After the attack, Miss Raven explains everything and tasks the teens with tracking down, but not confronting, Prierceblood. Since when do teens, do exactly what they are told?
Now, this volume is not perfect. I was disappointed to see that even though there are paragraphs about both of the book’s authors, there is no information about the illustrator. Naresh Kumar is the illustrator for several other Campfire titles. Considering that this is graphic novel, the illustrator serves a vital function and it would have been nice to at least know some information.
At times in the beginning, the dialogue can seem a bit forced and in several panels the group of teenage heroes looked more middle aged than high schoolers. However, the colors are vibrant and the details in the flashbacks make up for it. The plot is engaging enough to draw you in wanting to know more. The backstory is riddled with name dropping, such as Kipling, Sherlock Holmes,Tutankhamen, the Titanic, and Houdini. This premise perfectly coincides with today’s trends of mixing historical fact with mythical/paranormal fiction. Being Campfire there is of course a two page spread at the back of the book about The Curse of Tutankhamen and literary monsters, which definitely lives up to their mission statement of educating as well as entertaining.