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Review: ‘Dumbing of Age’ Book Two: The Cragged Shame Pits of the Lustwolves

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Today, I’m reviewing Dumbing of Age Book Tworather long-windedly titled I Beg You, Don’t Cast Your Body Into The Cragged Shame Pits of the Lustwolves. For clarity’s sake, I’m calling it The Cragged Shame Pits of the Lustwolves. Although I suppose that isn’t all that much clearer without context.

In the first book of Dumbing of Age, which I reviewed here, David Willis introduced the core cast of the comic and some of its major conflicts. The cast of the Dumbing of Age webcomic are rebooted versions of his characters from earlier comics.

In its second year, the webcomic spread its focus from its central characters to others who had played mostly cameo roles so far. The most important of these are Amazi-Girl/Amber, Ethan and Dina.

The second book is available for purchase here.

DUMBING OF AGE BOOK TWO: RECAP

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Sarah, Dorothy, Billie and Joyce discuss what to do in the aftermath of Joyce’s assault, and Sal and Walky end up as part of the discussion mostly by accident. After Sal’s advice that the police won’t do much, Joyce decides not to report her assault.

The group decides to go to the beach to help lift Joyce’s spirits, and accidentally drag Dina along with them. Billie helps Walky get some time with Dorothy, his crush. Dorothy and Walky get closer, and eventually start dating.

In the meantime, Ethan Siegal is struggling with being gay. He came out before university, and is regretting his decision. Amber, his ex-girlfriend and best friend, isn’t helping the situation. She helped him come out to his family and friends, but is now avoiding him (and beating up criminals at night as Amazi-Girl).

Ethan Siegal, Mike Warner, Dumbing of Age Book Two

Joyce is trying to deal with the consequences of her assault, and flinching around men she doesn’t know or trust. She and Ethan bond over Transformers cartoons, and despite Ethan’s (and Sarah’s) misgivings, become a couple.

Amber and Danny, computer science compatriots, are flirting. However, Danny’s decided he’s interested in Amazi-Girl instead. After some doubts, Amazi-Girl and Danny start going out. However, Danny’s complete lack of observation skills makes things… difficult.

Billie and Ruth’s rivalry is only escalating, despite Billie not having done anything else to piss off her RA. Mostly. Things get weird(er?) when Ruth breaks into Billie’s room and insists on drinking beer and watching television with her, though.

Sarah, Joyce, Dina and Billie go shopping. They run into some of Sarah’s old friends, and things get violent. Afterwards, Sarah explains to the others what happened to her old roommate – the previously mentioned drug user, Dana. Turns out, Dana’s mother died, and her illegal drug habits threatened both Dana’s life and Sarah’s mental health and scholarship.

Joyce’s desires towards Ethan mingle with her trauma and overall sexual repression, and she has a terrifying dream in which she and Ethan are intimate – and Ethan turns into Ryan.

DUMBING OF AGE BOOK TWO: REVIEW

By this point, the comic is definitely heading into darker territory. Joyce’s assault colours her interactions with everybody, and the entire book revolves around sex and sexuality. The humour is still omnipresent, but fewer and fewer of the final panels are punchlines, and more of them are quiet punches to the gut. Or, occasionally, very frightening ones.

Dumbing of Age Book Two, Joyce Brown

The one significant flaw of this book’s plotlines is Ethan. Recently out of the closet, he’s an average Jewish nerd, exhausted from a summer of homophobia. However, his plotline – dating the otherwise sweet but drastically sheltered and homophobic Joyce and going back into the closet – is more than a little upsetting. The humour of the comic hasn’t balanced out yet, and the writing treats Joyce’s struggle seriously while joking about Ethan’s every few pages. This isn’t helped by the fact that everybody else can apparently tell that Ethan is gay; Sarah makes a comment about it within a few moments of meeting him.

In defense of the comic, though, it’s the first explicitly queer storyline. There are others later on, which handle the topic with some more grace.

Overall, Dumbing of Age Book Two continues the excellence of the first, with a few hiccups in representation. Joyce’s characterization is the driving force of the comic, and Walky and Dorothy’s relationship puts most romances to shame.

Have you been keeping up with Dumbing of Age? What did you think of these arcs?

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Elliott Dunstan
Elliott Dunstan is a semi-professional Canadian nerd with a special talent for reading way too fast, spouting weird trivia, and latching emotionally onto that minor character with a one-liner in the second episode. Elliott was born in 1995 and is mildly annoyed by this.