What instantly struck me about Brüssli: Way of the Dragon Boy was the artwork. That and the incredible word play on "Bruce Lee: Way of the Dragon". Since this is a French comic translated into English it’s an understatement to say that it’s in a very European storybook style. A style that I can’t quite place my finger on because it reminds me of an animation I’ve seen. It’s also an understatement to say that the art is amazing. The still images by J. Etienne have a very fluid look to them. Your mind’s eye can easily see the movement and so in many ways this is like watching an animation. That and Etienne’s somewhat classic animation style of anthropomorphic animals frankly just warms my heart to see. The warm and detailed background and set pieces whisk you away. I felt like a child again while reading this book and that innocence continues into the story.
The story is fairly simple and straightforward. The plot is out of a kid’s movie and that’s okay, because it does this quite well. The tale starts off in a town called Stillendorf. The richest man and essentially the leader of the town is on the verge of death. He leaves everything to his only living kin, his two granddaughters. One person that wishes to see him off is Arsenius who has just found a strange egg in the mountains while gathering some plants for the dying man. Low and behold the egg hatches later and suddenly Pa and Ma Kent have a new baby… I mean Arsenius and his wife have a baby.
We flash forward some years and meet young Brüssli who has an unusual face. The other kids pick on him in a way that would only be acceptable in this bygone era. That is to say they chase him with what can only be described as crude bats after giving him a boot party. This ends with him up a tree and apples being thrown at him. Not of the rotten variety.
Other players in the story are introduced. The two grown granddaughters, one a ruthless business woman looking to discover the treasure that her grandfather spoke of on his death-bed. The other can only be described as pure, innocent and dim-witted. And while it’s a bit of a trope for dim-witted Dorette to act the way she does, I assure you that her pure heart and dim bulb make for some great moments.
This collection is split up in four chapters. There is an overall arc to the entire story running through all four chapters, but also an A and B story as well. The first two chapters are extremely connected to each other, while the last two are as well. Each pairing has its own plotline that it’s following making for a very rich reading experience.
The only thing holding the story back is the sheer amount of dialogue that it has. There’s a lot of redundancies in the information given and every character seems to need ample time to talk. In that regard it almost feels like a stage show in which information is being conveyed because it can’t be shown. But it’s a comic book and the information can be shown and is, wonderfully at that. It’s not a deal breaker, but towards the end I was able to read the first few dialogue bubbles, skip to the bottom and have all the info. Especially if a gag wasn’t happening.
With that said I would still really recommend this story. It has a classic animation feel, but a story that was just a little more mature than you’d expect. It’s nothing like cartoons and kid’s stories today in which lessons and counting are the only thing done, but more like Warner Brothers cartoons in which children were entertained, but adults could appreciate the brilliance of what they were watching. Not that Brüssli is an animation, but perhaps I enjoyed it because it felt like one from beginning to end.
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Brüssli: Way of the Dragon Boy Writer: Jean-Louis Fonteneau Artist: J. Etienne Translator: Anna Provitola Publisher: Humanoids Inc. Price: $24.95 Format: Hardcover; Print/Digital