Ralph Azham Vol 2: The Land of the Blue Demons by Lewis Trondheim

Wonderfully translated from the original French by Joe Johnson, and with truly magnificent colors by Brigitte Findakly.

Now that Ralph has discovered the truth behind not only the identity of the ruler of Astolia but also the fate of the other children marked by their superpowers as Blueys, he’s decided that the enemy of his enemy must be his friend. With this maxim in mind, he endeavors to travel to the far-off land ruled by Vom Syrus, the warlord who’d struck so much fear into his little village in the first book in this graphic novel series, and bid for an alliance.

His curmudgeonly father decides not to come with him, having secret plans of his own. So Ralph strikes out with his best friend, the religious young mage Yassou, hoping to come up with a plan as they travel to Vom Syrus’ domain. In the port city where they’re hoping to charter a ship, they encounter trouble, in the form of both an alluring cat burglar turned ally, as well as the young oracles who roam the streets, collecting tithes and giving pronouncements on the fate of penitents. One of these oracles almost immediately accuses Ralph of planning to rob the church, which is enough in this town to get him thrown into jail. But no prison can really hold Ralph when he sets his wily mind to escape it.

As Ralph gathers allies in his quest to dethrone the king, he falls out with old friends, commits (occasionally questionable) acts of derring-do, and uncovers even more shocking truths than he’d anticipated. This all comes to a head when Malik finally apprehends him, only to have both their lives threatened by an even more ancient evil. Will Ralph finally find himself in a situation he can no longer slide out from like the greased anthropomorphic duck he is?

New readers to the series might need some time to warm up to how cartoony the art is in this truly gritty tale of dark fantasy adventure. It’s well worth it tho. The juxtaposition serves to make the comedy feel lighter somehow and the tragedy therefore darker. Mr Johnson’s translation work betters what he did with the first volume, such that you’d be hard pressed to believe the text wasn’t written in English to begin with. Lewis Trondheim’s story is elegant, smart and surprisingly heartfelt, tho you definitely should not start here with the series. Read Volume 1 first: if you like the machinations of books like GRRM’s A Song Of Ice And Fire, you will enjoy the twists and turns here as well.

This is not a kids’ comic, despite the art, but any connoisseur of adult fantasy will find much to appreciate within these pages. I certainly did.

Ralph Azham Vol 2: The Land of the Blue Demons by Lewis Trondheim was published October 25 2022 by Papercutz and is available from all good booksellers, including

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