Friday, 6 March 2015

Review: Von Doogan and the Curse of the Golden Monkey by Lorenzo Etherington

A super puzzle adventure comic starring Von Doogan...and YOU! The Curse of the Golden Monkey is BOTH a brilliant puzzle book AND a thrilling adventure story! It's jam-packed with challenges for you to solve, and every step of the way our hero's fate is in YOUR HANDS! Can Doogan uncover the MYSTERIOUS and TERRIFYING secrets at the heart of Javasu Island? It's up to YOU!

I appreciate that posting a review of Von Doogan and the Curse of the Golden Monkey a mere two days after my review of Long Gone Don makes it look as if the Etherington Brothers have hijacked The Book Zone as part of some nefarious quest for world domination, but I could hardly review one and not the other, could I? As with Long Gone Don, if you're not a regular reader of The Phoenix then you will most likely not know that Von Doogan is a regular feature in said weekly comic, but whereas Long Gone Don is a traditional narrative story format, Von Doogan is something different entirely. Whilst the Indiana Jones style story element is still important (and also great fun), it is also possibly the most evil and dastardly children's puzzle book created in the history of the planet... ever!

Best known for his illustrating of his brother's writing, Lorenzo Etherington has cast off the shackles of brotherly love and gone solo with Von Doogan, although we are not looking at a Wham-style split over artistic differences here - the 'boys' are still very much a double act for their other work (and long may it be so). And Von Doogan may be enough suggest that Lorenzo is the evil brother of the two, as the puzzles in Von Doogan made my brain turn to mush and ooze out of my nostrils in protest. Lorenzo never, ever resorts to the mundane or simple for his puzzles. Wordsearches? Pah! They are for wimps. No, we are presented with codes and word 'games' that would have had the Bletchley crowd scratching their heads in frustration. In fact, I would go as far as to suggest that Von Doogan and the Curse of the Golden Monkey should in future be used as part of the MI5 and MI6 selection process. Finish it in less than a day and you're in! Just look at this one for the first puzzle in the book:

And yet, despite its devilish difficulty this book is pretty damn fun as well. Each of the puzzles is given a difficulty rating (or 'impossibility level', depicted in skulls), and your heart does skip a beat when you turn a page to see five skulls glaring menacingly at you. Especially as you know that in order to be able to continue with the narrative part of the comic you MUST solve the problem on each page. But then there is that feeling of satisfaction when you do manage to finally complete a puzzle and move on to the next page, even if that status bar at the bottom of the page does seem to creep along slower than an M25 traffic jam on a hot and sunny Bank Holiday Monday.

And then there is Lorenzo Etherington's artwork. Every single puzzle is lavishly produced in Lorenzo's trademark detail and stunning vibrant colourwork, and it is this that really sets Von Doogan head and shoulders above any puzzle book I have come across for kids. Von Doogan and the Curse of the Golden Monkey is almost guaranteed to keep kids (and their parents) occupied for hours (as long they can resist the temptation to cheat by looking up the answers at the rear of the book, which I did not do even once. Honest! (Gulp!)

Von Doogan and the Curse of the Golden Monkey is yet another great publication from David Fickling Books as part of the ever-increasing The Phoenix Presents series and just like Long Gone Don, it deserves a place in every young comic lover's collection. My thanks go to the publisher for sending me a copy yo review (even if I have gained a few more grey hairs whilst working through it).

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