I cannot tell a lie: I’m a Dune nerd.
OK, maybe not a true blue, diehard Dune nerd, but I’ve read several of the books and play board games and discuss lore with other nerdy friends. So when I heard BOOM! was taking on Dune in a prequel context written by THE Brian Herbert, I was excited. Unfortunately, this unambitious comic doesn’t showcase the universe in an entertaining way for fans or newbies.
Set before the first Dune book, we follow two familiar sides: House Atreides (where we see a young Duke Leo) and House Harkonen (featuring a younger but still menacing Baron Harkonen).
As for the writing, this first issue isn’t terribly exciting. Doing little more than setting up the characters, there’s very little plot or indication of plot other than vague mentions of plotting near the very end.
The characters are flat and little more than archetypes spouting exposition-heavy dialogue.
Most damning is how this comic makes no effort to give us the deliberate pacing and razor-sharp nuance of the Frank Herbert books. Dune has stood apart from the likes of Star Wars, Star Trek, and any number of sci-fi or fantasy because they’re all about focusing on the cat-and-mouse dialogue interactions and power plays the characters deviously enacted on each other.
Yes, slower pacing and muted, sly characters are hard to convey in an interesting way visually…but this comic makes no effort to try. So it comes across like the Dune mini-series: bereft of nuance and high on flat melodrama.
While mysticism in the Dune universe is usually more of a Fremen activity (desert-dwelling mystics on the planet Arakis), this comic doesn’t even attempt to get a little spiritual, much less philosophical, another element that keeps Dune exciting and fresh even today.
Dev Pramanik is a decent artist, but his style isn’t dynamic enough to convey excitement in the characters and especially not in the world-building. If I had no idea what Dune was and I flipped through this issue, I wouldn’t remember any design elements or unique features that the book universe has and should be highlighted. However, I must compliment the color work by Alex Guimaraes, because it conveys a dusty, sandy tone without going overly monochromatic in the color scheme (which the Dune movie appears to be).
Overall, Dune: House Atreides refuses to give us the mystic and subtle power of the source material; yet another example of a visual medium failing to convey Herbert’s brainchild. Unfortunately, I’m sure there’s a way to play in the Dune universe with comics, but this dull, flat attempt isn’t it.
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