July 10, 2012
Pendragon Book One: The Merchant of Death
GENRE: Graphic Novel / Adventure
REVIEW: Bobby Pendragon is an enviable kid. He's popular, good at sports and romantically linked to a really great girl. But he's also what's known as a "traveler"- people who travel between worlds through "flumes" or passages in time and space. Travelers move between dimensions righting wrongs and doing good, ultimately battling the Traveler-gone-wrong, Saint Dane, the series' big villain. It's a very appealing premise, one with a lot of fantastic potential. Unfortunately, that potential remains unmet, at least in this graphic novel adaptation. Bobby is a singularly unappealing protagonist - weak, vain and shallow - and, unfortunately, there is little growth shown over the course of the narrative arc. One gets the sense that, as Bobby accepts his new, inter-dimensional role, he will only become a different shade of insufferable. The story itself is a storehouse of recyled tropes - boy discovers true identity and gets dragged into a "fight that isn't his", adult role models hang around just long enough to get captured or killed before the apprenticeship is over, and there's even an arena fight. A decent adventure, but nothing to write home about.
OPINION: There's nothing wrong, exactly, with this story. It simply rings shallow and predictable. McNeal's illustrations, though competent, are relatively generic, often tending towards the cluttered and unclear, while the slang incorporated to appeal to tweens ("coolio", "lou-zah!" etc.) rings false and forced. An overall middle-of-the-road offering that will probably appeal to younger male tweens, but make no lasting impression.
IDEAS: A fun supplement to the book series, it's a good introduction to the novels for reluctant readers (especially boys) intimidated by the longer form.