“Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”
~ G. K. Chesterton
There is something about dragons that keeps the collective imagination of the world spinning. Every culture from the far corners of the earth have some sort of giant reptile that is either revered or reviled. They may be snake-like water gods as described by the Japanese, or scaled beasts that haunt the damp caves of Scotland. Wherever they reside in our subconscious, they must have a reason for being. What is reason for dragons?
Chris Northrop and Jeff Stokely may have found the answer. It is an answer that has had many forms over the years, but it hasn’t been illustrated so finely as in The Reason for Dragons.
The Reason for Dragons is a new graphic novel from Archaia, a publisher that, from what I’ve seen, only prints quality. Wendell is a high-school loner who doesn’t fit in much of anywhere. His gearhead step dad Ted is distant and couldn’t be bothered with a meek loser. After being knocked around by bullies, Wendell succumbs to peer pressure and goes to find a supposedly haunted Renaissance Faire and bring back one of its flyers. There, he finds a knight who speaks of valor and dragons. But is he an addled old employee or someone truly worthy of the title “Sir”?
When I was a kid, my mother used to read me bedtime stories every night without fail. My favorite, by far, was a book called Saint George and the Dragon. It was a beautifully illustrated volume that introduced me to brave knights vanquishing unspeakable beasts. It is one of my fondest memories from childhood and The Reason for Dragons caused it all to come rushing back. The excitement, the fear, and the triumph are all there and told in a brand new way.
It is a coming of age tale told with the confidence of someone who has conquered their own dragons. The pacing of the story is thoughtful and steady while the artwork is full of kinetic energy and movement. The panels flow together like the smoothest of fluid and each piece of artwork is more detailed and evocative than the last.
The Reason For Dragons also does something special that only comics can do. It has just enough panels to move the story along clearly, but it leaves out enough to allow you to fill in the gaps of imagery with your imagination. That, along with its intriguing tale involving a knight and a dragon in the present day, is how it pulls you in and envelopes you.
The Chesterton quote above is a pithy way of articulating a sentiment about the challenges of life. While brilliant, it can easily be forgotten or disregarded. When you instead layer that sentiment through the pages of a great story, then you have something with proper staying power. The Reason For Dragons is not only an entertaining story filled with beautiful artwork. It is a reminder that dragons are real, and although difficult, they can always be beaten.