Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My first impression of "The Serpent's Heir"!

So, I have now purchased and read the new HTTYD comic "The Serpent's Heir". To be honest, I have read very few of the RoB and DoB comics... mostly because they felt a lot like the show and I din't really care that much to go out of my way to find them. This story, however, is written in part by Dean DeBlois, AND it come directly after the events of HTTYD 2. Since the director had a hand in crafting the story, I felt that it would feel much more "canon" than most of the tv episodes. I've been really anticipating getting to read this plot... after all I've been dying to know how Hiccup and Toothless function together after the events of the second movie (to see my short story about how I envisioned events directly after the film, click here). Well, I will say that this comic is different than I expected, but I did really enjoy it and it helped answer two MAJOR questions that I have been curious about and that I know have bounced around in the fandom for quite a while. So, wanna know my thoughts of the comic in detail? Click the read more! 

The layout of the entire book is appealing. They have a nice sepia title page with a neat sketch of the riders and the dragons in the background. The story starts off with a "This is Berk", just as every legitimate piece of HTTYD story telling should! However, the thing that really first caught my attention was this:

(Haha, I know this art has actually been floating around the web for a while, but I avoided spoilers about this comic as if they were the plague, so this was the first time I saw it!) These three images make one thing absolutely clear: Toothless is Alpha, AND he knows how to use the position. I can't begin to describe how happy this makes me... because it confirms a long running hypothesis I've had about how the Red Rage works. Several people saw it as mind control... the Bewilderbeast's innate ability to reach into the minds of smaller dragons and control them. I was always opposed to that. It felt to inorganic and too sic-fi. I was always of the position that the Alpha dragon was not Alpha by nature of species, but by position. Once a dragon became Alpha, a survival mechanism wired into practically every other dragon would then force them to obey auditory and visual commands given by the Alpha dragon. Now, because the Bewilderbeasts were HUGE and POWERFUL, it is easy to see why they would function well as Alphas. No dragon in its right mind is going to challenge them, and they are big and loud enough to easily control armies of dragons. Toothless... we still don't know how much control he can take of another dragon, but in this clip we see that he can certainly exercise some... and that gives a ton of incite into both the second and third movie. It helps support my theories of what happened inside of Toothless in the second film, and it lets us get a glimpse of the responsibility that now sits on this tiny dragon's shoulders... and the fact that he takes this role seriously!

I liked these shots a LOT. Aside from my question of whether or not Toothless could use the "abilities" of an Alpha dragon, my biggest question after the second movie was how Hiccup would cope with being chief. After all... it is a huge responsibility. It was GREAT to see how many times Stoick was referenced in this story. After all, in the second film... we weren't allowed to sit and dwell on his death. Berk needed saving, so after the (powerful) funeral scene, the story needed to move on. We never saw any nagging grief. Now, I'm not saying that is a flaw, but I did wonder whether or not it was something Hiccup had to deal with. You'll note that, at this point in the story, he won't even sit on his father's chair (subtle, but extremely powerful bit of imagery there). Now, this story is fun and light hearted, and it doesn't show Hiccup in the same kind of deep morning that I put him in in my own imagination of the weeks following the second film, but the fact that there were somber tones and a longing for Stoick's help did feel incredibly appropriate. 

Also, as a small side note, it was funny to see Toothless get a couple little goofy, behind the scenes antics. Note that in the frame where Valka has her hand on Hiccup's shoulder, Toothless is placing his paw with ridiculous sincerity onto the shoulder of a somewhat annoyed Cloudjumper. Ha, feels a lot like HTTYD2, doesn't it?

The plot thickens! As the story progresses, we eventually get a pretty appropriate climax in which Hiccup, Toothless, and the rest of the riders and dragons must save a village because it has been built on the backs sleeping Foreverwings. It was neat to see this dragon get more attention... after all I do think the design for them is really good looking. Toothless once again shows his capacity to pacify and even (to a degree) control other dragons by making this entire pack of TITAN class dragons calm down and move onto there new homes. I'm honestly pretty impressed with just how powerful Toothless has become thanks to his new position. After all, it appears that even the biggest dragons now show him respect. 

The story also had another potential problem that Hiccup and Toothless had to face. "The Serpent's Heir" is actually a man named Calder. He is a... strange villain to say the least, but I do feel that he was an appropriate middle ground for this comic. He's certainly not on level with Drago... probably not even able to be compared with Viggo or Ryker. He's kind of a small fry in the world of HTTYD horrors... but he is mad. His insanity actually does make him quite dangerous. Unlike many other villains, he comes completely out of the blue and shocks everyone because his plans and motives are so bizarre. He believes he is the son of a dragon, and that his true form is buried within his human skin. He tricks Hiccup and Toothless into coming to his island because he wishes to give himself the power of flame (by stealing Hiccup's sword) and the power of flight (by... ripping the wings off of Toothless)! Even though he is kind of hard to take seriously as he parades around dressed as a dragon and claiming to be "The Serpent's Heir", he certainly does put the main characters into real peril, and the fact that he almost kills Hiccup and wants to maim Toothless makes him actually pretty sinister. In the end, he is actually killed by Hiccup in self defense. This is pretty dark for Hiccup, but it does show that Hiccup is taking his role as a protector of people and dragons seriously enough to use lethal force... so I don't necessarily think it was out of character... just a little shocking!

The comic ends on a very good note. Hiccup gives a speech to Berk about living with and accepting change, even if the changes are hard. It felt very Hiccupish and showed scenes of Hiccup, Astrid, Eret, and the teens dealing with their new (haha, or old) positions in the life of Berk. I did really like the last few frames. Hiccup has now taken Stoick's seat, and he sits looking exhausted but determined. It's nice to see that Dean wants us to know that this is still hard for Hiccup even though he has accepted the idea of standing in Stoick's place. Then of course Toothless comes in and is adorable. Ha, love the throne tackle.

Then the last line. It's a Hiccupish play on words. He's not being glib, but he is making the best out of a new, challenging situation. He has a newfound confidence in what he and Toothless can do together as the leaders of Berk and the dragons. So, yes, they rule... in both ways! It's not easy, but they do it together. It's gonna be quite interesting to see this new Alpha/Chief team tested in the third film!

One other note I want to make about the things I liked about this comic: We have a mystery Sea Dragon. The comic shows a glimpse of the gigantic beast before the riders must move along. So, I'm assuming the Sea Dragon will come back into the story sooner or later... perhaps in a future comic or in the third film (Dean did confirm that this comic would tie into the third film in one way or another).

Sooooooo... I do have one complaint. Has anyone noticed Toothless TONGUE???? It's not forked at the end! That ain't right, and I should know! After all, I've written full posts about that big pink thing! I also would love to own this in a hard-back edition, but I did appreciate how affordable the paperback is. 

Ah well, over all the art was very good, the story was entertaining, the void left by Stoick was respectfully tangible, and the story did a great job showing off how Toothless now functions as an Alpha. 

Thanks Dean! Once again we get a story with some really great insight into the lives of Hiccup and Toothless.

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