Time to talk about another series by writer Joe Kelly. Unlike my other favorite work of his, I Kill Giants, this story is about something far more primal; this is a story about a boy and his dragon.
Kelly’s story, Four Eyes, is a rewrite of history with some fantastical elements thrown into the mix. The story takes place during the Great Depression, a time in American history when just carving out a simple living took a lot of struggling and some questionable leaps of faith. Enrico, the main protagonist of the story, is a young Italian immigrant whose father finally managed to find some steady work. Soon after moving his family to New York, Enrico’s father dies in a blaze of fire and teeth, courtesy of a dragon’s gullet.
Soon after Enrico discovers a dark part of the world where men capture dragons, a previously undisturbed race from deep beneath the earth, and raise them up to fight in rings for human entertainment. Think cock fights, but with dragons. In spite of how his father died, or perhaps because of it, Enrico immerses himself in this world of fire and death, striving towards a goal that the reader can only guess at. A desire for vengeance, a want for a sense of purpose, and a determination to uphold his father’s legacy all blend together to make one fierce ten-year-old.
Just like I Kill Giants, Four Eyes is a story guaranteed to take you in some unanticipated directions. In a world that is as strange as it is brutal, Kelly has a lot of leeway to make unique and unexpected characters. First there’s Enrico, the ten-year-old kid who wants to hunt and train dragons, then there’s Abraham, the self-loathing dragon trainer who looks out for him. Even Enrico’s father, who dies within the first three pages, has an interesting part to play as his memory inspires his son to march further into the darkness.
Emphasizing this is artist Max Fiumara, whose art style ranges from strangely cartoony to sharply defined. The dragons seem real enough that you half-expect them to leap from the page, while the human characters seem more abstract but substantially more expressive. The two combined make it so the action, gore, and the characters’ reactions are all heightened to the reader. It’s like mixing How to Train Your Dragon with Frank Miller’s 300.
In your average dark fantasy, it’s always hard to determine who the real monster is going to be by the end. When you throw in dragons, mobsters, and underground death matches, things get even more complicated. If you like blood, violence, and characters with ambiguous morals, look no further. This is a story that has two syllables, four eyes, and five stars to its name.