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Benjamin Constable
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The Return of King Doug - Greg Erb, Jason Oremland, Hunter Clark Summary: Our story opens with 8-year-old Doug fleeing his destiny as savior of the magical kingdom whose gateway lies in the old well at his parents' summer cottage. Fast-forward to some years later, where we find Doug grown with an ex-wife and son of his own, yet still not an adult. Basically, he's an immature loser who never finishes anything. When his son falls down the same well into the same magical kingdom, Doug is forced to confront the magical creatures he abandoned to a terrible fate if he ever wants to see his child again.

Characters: Oh, King Doug. We've all met this guy. Some of us have dated this guy. All talk, no action, no forward motion. Watching his journey of self-discovery and change is refreshing enough, but the character behind the epiphany isn't strong or well-developed. Doug is a loser who realizes he needs to grow up. The end. The side characters in the magical kingdom are a little more interesting. They are skewed takes on the traditional fantasy world inhabitants. We have the friendly hobbit-type villagers who, in this reality, have grown suicidal and insane. There are over-the-hill alcoholic centaurs, a pixie and a cyclops with relationship issues, vomiting unicorns, and two oracles struggling for turf in the economic crisis. The villain is less than terrifying: her magic is nearly depleted and most of her attempts at tyranny are used for laughs. Basically, if King Doug hadn't come back, I'm pretty sure her reign would have collapsed all on its own two weeks later.

Plot: Since this is sort of a spoof/satire type of work, I understand the good vs. evil, magical creatures vs a dark queen and her minions, cliched setup. The rest of the plotline is pretty cliched, too, though, and mostly reminds me of the movie Liar, Liar. Basically, there is nothing new here. Not even second-hand new.

Art: This book receives an extra star for its art style. The black and white line drawings are a lot of fun to look at and do a lot toward making up for the book's flaws.

Dialogue/Writing: The writing aims for levity but falls flat. Perhaps a younger audience (say, 7th-9th grade) might be able to find the humor in the oddly placed jokes, although they might need the bong gag explained to them.

Ending: The ending was pretty cute and at least made me smile, if not laugh.

What more did I want?: Originality in plot, depth in characters, humor in...humor.

Moral: Finish what you start.