Dreamworks Dragons – Riders of Berk volume 3: The Ice Castle


By Simon Furman, Jack Lawrence, Stephen Downey & various (Titan Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-78276-078-8

DreamWorks Dragons: Riders of Berk and its follow-up Defenders of Berk are part of one of the most popular cartoon franchises around. Loosely adapted from Cressida Cowell’s gloriously charming children’s books, the show is based upon and set between the How to Train Your Dragon movies. Of course if you have children you are almost certainly already aware of that already.

Having wowed young and old alike across the globe, the series has also spawned a series of comic albums and this third digest-sized collection features two stellar incendiary serpentine sagas scripted as ever by the ever-enthralling Simon Furman.

In case you’re not absolutely au fait with the exhilarating word of winged reptiles: brilliant but introverted boy-hero Hiccup saved his island people from being overrun by hostile dragons by befriending them. Now he and his unruly kid compatriots of the Dragon Rider Academy gleefully roam the skies with their devoted scaly friends, getting into trouble and generally saving the day.

When not squabbling with each other, the trusty teens strive to keep the peace between the vast variety of wondrous Wyrms and isolated Berk island’s bombastic Viking homesteaders.

These days, now that the dragons have all been more-or-less domesticated, those duties generally involve finding, taming and cataloguing new species or protecting the village and farms from constant attacks by far nastier folk such as Alvin the Treacherous and his fleet of piratical Outcasts and, occasionally, fresh unknown horrors…

As usual, before the action takes wing there’s a brace of handy information pages reintroducing Hiccup and his devoted Night Fury Toothless, as well as tom-boyish Astrid on Deadly Nadder Stormfly, obnoxious jock Snotlout and Monstrous Nightmare Hookfang, portly dragon-scholar Fishlegs on ponderous Gronckle Meatlug and the terribly dim yet jovially violent twins Tuffnut and Ruffnut on double-headed Zippleback Belch & Barf

The eponymous epic of ‘The Ice Palace’ (illustrated by Jack Lawrence with the colouring wizardry of Digikore and lettering from Jim Campbell) sees the Berk islanders dealing with another deep-snow winter whilst welcoming unsavoury fur-trader Arngrim Dammen to show his wares. The skins he brings are warm, varied and fabulous, but Astrid is not impressed – until she feels the quality of the merchandise. Her earlier suspicions quickly return, though, once the trader starts asking too many questions about her dragon.

Arngrim blusters on into the small hours, drinking and telling tales to the village men, but there’s something in his manner which also makes smith and armourer Gobber anxious…

Next morning those feelings are proven right when Astrid finds Stormfly has been stolen. The village is in turmoil and the council of war fraught. The seas are vast and the number of islands the thief could head for countless. However, Gobber recalls one detail of the plunderer’s interminable tall-tales and guesses where the scoundel is headed…

As two ships full of angry warriors and Dragon Riders close on their quarry, Hiccup and Astrid take to the skies on Toothless and see a huge number of vessels all on the same heading…

Their destination is clearly Balder Bay, but the Berk longboats can’t sail straight in amongst all those clearly hostile ships. They need to sneak up somehow. Then Gobber directs them to around the island to a terrifying natural feature: a massive wall of lethal jagged icicles known as the Ice Needles…

As Hiccup’s father Chief Stoick leads the men of Berk in the daunting task of scaling the Needles, the Dragon Riders head out on a reconnaissance mission and discover an incredible castle of ice in a vast crater, with Arngrim inside preparing to make the sale of a lifetime. Unfortunately some of that stolen booty is deadly dragon eggs and they’re ready to hatch…

Ending in a fast and furious fight scene of epic proportions, this rip-roaring yarn is a tense and suspenseful action-packed delight.

Cleansing the palate after all that drama is a humour-drenched episode starring brash, testosterone-soaked Snotlout who is forced by Gobber to be a ‘Litter Sitter’ for a day.

With art by Stephen Downey, colours from John Charles and letters by Campbell, the trials of the burly brute as he watches over a rambunctious brood of baby Monstrous Nightmares is a splendid blend of slapstick and sloppy, sticky sentiment…

Despite being ostensibly aimed at excitable juniors and TV kids, this sublimely sharp tome is the kind of smart and engaging fantasy romp no self-indulging fun-fan of any vintage should miss: accessible, entertaining, and wickedly habit-forming.
© 2015 DreamWorks Animation L.L.C.