By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
* Mild spoiler alert
If I had to decide between which How to Train your Dragon (HTTYD) comic book series to follow, my vote is for Dark Horse Comics‘ official follow-up. Penned by Dean DeBlois, director and showrunner of DreamWorks’ series, and Richard Hamilton (Star Wars: Dark Times), I’m enjoying the continuing adventures which take place after the second movie as it puts Hiccup into new adventures before he can even get comfortable with his new crown.
The Serpent’s Heir begins with everyone from the village of Berk helping to rebuild. After a few mishaps, King Hiccup gets a visitor from another island tribe. Calder’s village is being racked with earthquakes and while he expected to meet Stoick the Vast, he only finds the boy king. This young leader certainly has learned a lot from his dad, and he knows never to turn his back to those in need. Both he and his Dragon Riders travel to the island of Nepenthe to assist and find treachery in the midst.
While this first graphic novel is an easy short read, I feel these trials are just one of many in a series of books to help cement Hiccup as King of the Archipelago. News about Stoick’s death has not spread far, but it soon will. Other Vikings will come to challenge Hiccup. Unlike other burly soldiers who are hard to push over, this matchstick shaped lad may seem easy to bend.
No announcements have been made as to how many more volumes will follow, but if the other animated tie-in series like Avatar the last Airbender is any indication, I’m speculating there will be a book every five months or so.
The tales move in a similar vein as the films and Netflix series. Hiccup narrates and any further development in the Hiccstrid relationship will be slow in coming. I like how this detail is hinted in the epilogue. While Astrid and Fishlegs are more of a background character in this first story, I’m hoping the production team has individual stories planned to focus on them in upcoming issues.
I really like how Doug Wheatley brings the characters to life. His take follows the designs from the film and has a warmness to them. I also enjoy how Wes Dzioba’s colours transition readers from the CGI world to print. There’s a better range in how he textures the dragons, and that’s a detail I really appreciate. When I’ve read a lot of Titan’s printed material, their varying teams interpreting this world issue to issue is a mixed bag and do not hold a candle to an officially sanctioned continuity. Fans can try to figure out how all the products from this universe mesh, but unlike Star Wars which has a key group of people to manage the narrative, HTTYD needs the same thing to ensure Hiccup has varying epic adventures.
The wait for HTTYD3 in 2019 will be long, and thankfully Dark Horse’s material sweetly fills the gap until I get my Toothless again.