Review by Ian Keogh
Do you want to see the tyke in your life rapt in concentration, their little tongue poking from the corner of their mouth, pencil in hand? And for hours on end? Well Von Doogan and the Curse of the Golden Monkey is the book for them.
Lorenzo Etherington, already responsible for such triumphs as Monkey Nuts!, here takes on the puzzle page, once a staple of British comics, and re-invents it in eye-popping fashion. Where once such pages included a maze, a spot the difference feature and a word search if ambitious, Etherington has pulled out all the stops to create a dazzling selection of puzzles, and simultaneously incorporated them into an ongoing narrative.
We start with the adventurous Von Doogan having to locate an abducted mate, and this involves following mazes, code-breaking, identifying a liar, working out a card game, distinguishing one knot from others, and several more tasks. As the book proceeds Etherington becomes ever more inventive with his puzzles, and the wonder is that types are so rarely duplicated. If they are, the format is wildly divergent. Two code pages, for instance, involve cracking morse code and Aztec symbols, and he throws assorted complications into his mazes.
If the work involved in creating the puzzles wasn’t enough, Etherington’s pages are densely illustrated, packed with detail children can study for hours. Even pages where the puzzle is large format and relatively simple have that puzzle overlaid onto a more complex background. And he’s considerate. For those at whom the level of the puzzles might be pitched a little high, Etherington has thoughtfully included extra clues for each puzzle, located just before the answer section.
As a comic, the plot is slim, but that’s not the primary purpose of the book. Etherington has produced something new and wonderful. He followed up with the equally impressive Von Doogan and the Great Air Race.