Meet Lander, Fadet, and Urtsi, three local boys determined to prove their heroism to the great Axel Excel and his Sauroktones, mighty beast hunters. Excel and his crew are in the boys’ part of the world because they’re tracking the tamarro, a fierce monster the Sauroktones previously failed to kill, and the boys are helping track it with information about the local landscape. Lander, Fadet, and Urtsi are about to learn some very difficult truths about reality and heroes when the Tamarro does show up.
The Sauroktones is distinctive for its art style, which is very classic cartooning with bright flat colors in teals, yellows, and reds, and heavy use of black for creating a sense of distance or shadow. The linework is in the same vein, with characters drawn very simply and loosely, features changing slightly between panels. The color choices are incredibly effective at conveying the big emotion of scenes, but not necessarily an individual character’s reaction, and there’s not much time devoted to individual characters’ reactions to moments anyway. But when the art nails a moment it really captures it, like the scene around the campfire and the fight with the tamarro. Both have very distinct moods, but it’s because it’s about the entire moment and not each character’s place in them.
What doesn’t help this is the incredibly short length of this book; The Sauroktones Volume 1 is only about 33 pages long total, more the length of a single-issue comic than a full graphic novel. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it meant I struggled to keep up with the quick plot and the absolute lack of explanation on anything. There’s mention of a rocket, there’s slang terms thrown around, a character who seems to be a slave, and none of it is explained. The story never lingers over a moment long enough to discuss it, really, always pushing on to the next scene and story beat. The ending is also abrupt; we see the chains around a character’s hands, they walk away, and the last panel is Urtsi standing in the dark. It’s another great panel, but I felt like I’d missed something for this to be where the first volume ended.
Something to consider when deciding whether or not to add The Sauroktones to your collection is that, as a Europe Comics publication, it is only available in digital edition. It is available to purchase via Overdrive for less than $6, so at least the price reflects the short length.
I have to admit, at first I wasn’t sure how to feel about this work. It’s so short, and there’s so little exposition, that it pushed me away. Re-reading made me really appreciate the art, but I’m still pretty baffled by the story and the narrative structure is a little odd. At some point, it becomes the kids recounting the story to someone else, and then we catch up to that moment and move forward in time again. I don’t think it’s a bad comic, but it’s not an easy recommendation. As far as who this book is a good suggestion for, I’d say older comic fans who miss the older styles of art and like a challenge. But it can also be great for tween and teen readers who like adventure stories set in dystopian landscapes, like Spill Zone. If the six volumes of Sauroktones that have been released thus far digitally are ever collected and released in print, it would be an easier title to recommend.
The Sauroktones, Vol. 1
By Erwann Surcouf
Europe Comics, 2020
Available via Overdrive
Publisher Age Rating: 12+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)