The magical land of Valdonia is in dire straits. An army of darkness has assembled under the command of a foul sorceress-queen. Her goal is to steal the kingdom’s prized jewel, an artifact of great magical power known as The Heart of Agnon, and use it to secure her rule for all time.
The noble centaurs and jolly Tumtum folk know they have little chance against the Dark Queen and her forces. Thankfully, legend speaks of a hero who will come to Valdonia in its time of greatest need. A chosen one born of another world, who will bear the mark of prophecy, wield the magic gem, and be as true and noble of heart as he is small of stature. And this chosen one shall be a boy named … Doug Peterson?!
Too bad Doug Peterson decided he had to get home before dinner and abandoned the sacred quest that had been given to him. Worse, he took The Heart of Agnon with him and promptly lost it. Twenty-five years have passed since that day and Doug Peterson has long since dismissed his memories of Valdonia as a dream born of a boring summer alone in the woods. Indeed, Doug doesn’t even remember Valdonia until his own son Oscar goes missing in the same woods and Doug once again wanders into another world while looking for him.
It’s twenty-five years later and the magical land of Valdonia is in direr straits. The noble centaurs now spend most of their days hanging around the local tavern, boring buxom bar wenches with tales of their old victories. The once-jolly Tumtum people now have the highest attempted suicide rate of all the once-free races of Valdonia. And The Dark Queen – near powerless after twenty five years of bleeding the land dry with her magic – is desperate to recover the magic stone that is now in Oscar’s hands.
Imagine The Chronicles of Narnia as rewritten by Mel Brooks and you can just about imagine what The Return of King Doug is like. This book is a delightfully twisted satire of every single fantasy series aimed at younger readers that never accounts for the realities of life as a child and the difficulties one has in embarking upon a noble quest without one’s mother’s permission.
The teen audiences this book is aimed at will doubtlessly enjoy seeing Greg Erb & Jason Oremland skewer the clichés of the genre. One fantastic sequence involves two soothsayers, long out of work due to a lack of heroes who need cryptic warnings of the future, getting into a fist-fight over who gets to say the sooth to Doug regarding his quest. Fist-fights between precognitive old men tend to take a while, since they aren’t too fast and they can see every punch coming before it is thrown.
The artwork by Wook-Jin Clark is perfectly suited toward the story. Delivered in a sketchy but cartoonish style, most of the panels feature close-ups on the character’s expressive faces. All the better for delivering the story’s many, many punch-lines.
The Return of King Doug
by Greg Erb & Jason Oremland
Art by Wook-Jin Clark
Oni Press, 2009
Publisher Age Rating: T for Teen (13+)