Robert Kondo: The Dam Keeper I & II (2017, 2018)
I found this graphic novel (and its sequel) at the library in the shelves where they put comics for primary school kids (along with Tintin, Donald Duck, Enola Holmes, Cerise, etc.). My idea was a read-along with my younger son who is 6 1/2. Mmh, perhaps it wasn’t a great idea after all. Mmh, perhaps I should tell a library that it’s not a great idea to make this graphic novel accessible to kids under 10. Or perhaps 12.
The art is beautiful and cute, in the rosy – pastel undertones. The heroes are a little pig, whose best friends are a fox and a hippo (well, it’s complicated but I won’t spoil it). They go to school in one of these iconic yellow buses, and some pages make you think that this is a standard school story with some bullies and some sensitive kids. But it is not the point of the book at all.
The little pig is actually in sole charge of a complex dam machinery, that prevents dark, ominous waves of evil to swarm over the village and kill everyone. This deadly black fog has destroyed much of the rest of the world, as far as we understand, and this little peaceful village is the last haven of civilization. The little piglet is alone, because his father who has invented the mechanics has committed suicide by walking into the fog in a bout of madness and despair.
Then something odd happens to the balance between the fog and the machinery and the 3 kids are thrown on the other side of the dam.
It’s one of those stories where you take it in stride and they don’t tell you everything about this world. The kids and their parents are living their lives as if there was no danger; they don’t even acknowledge the central role of the dam to save their lives every day, and they’re not grateful of Pig for ensuring their continuous safety. This is something that will probably speak more to adults than kids.
Anyway, I was soon hooked by this mystery and the tension of the plot. The art is really dreamlike and beautiful. My kids enjoyed it, they told me, but I don’t think they really got into the darkest issues of the book (am I kidding myself here?). I dropped the idea of a read-along.
We brought the second book from the library the next weekend, but I didn’t enjoy it as much. Pig, Fox and Hippo are on a journey to try to return to their hometown on time to avoid the deadly fog. En route they meet a lot of weird characters, some of which friendly and some definitely less so, but the book felt less under control than the first volume, and it ends with a huge cliffhanger. The third volume is unfortunately not yet available in French for now, so we’re basically stuck. How frustrating! I can’t wait to know the end! Apparently it will be out in October.