“It’s known as The Devil’s Thorn… What starts as a little nuisance has been known to wipe out entire villages. It’s been extinct in the wild for hundreds of years… But it can be resummoned using terrible magics” — Timbers, Dungeon Critters, p. 120.
|Creator(s)||Natalie Riess and Sara Goetter (authors and illustrators)|
|Environmental Themes and Issues||Anthropomorphism, Hostile Environment, Plants|
|Protagonists’ Identity||Ensemble cast of anthropomorphic talking animals. Juniper, Rose, and Goro are queer, and Prince Chirp uses she/her pronouns|
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency||Level 3: Moderate, Plot-Driven Environmental Agency|
|Target Audience||Middle Grade (8 to 12 years)|
|Settings||Fantasy medieval setting|
Based on the Dungeons & Dragons games, Dungeon Critters blends fantasy roleplaying tropes with anthropomorphic animals. The comic centers on a group of queer animal friends: Rose the fire-obsessed cat and Juniper the botanist Golden Retriever, who have a budding romance; Goro the snake, who has a boyfriend named horseboy; and Prince Chirp, who uses she/her pronouns. These characters wear human clothes and speak like humans, but the comic humorously draws attention to their animal natures and differences between the species. The plot revolves around the core cast as they investigate a monstrous, poisonous plant, Devil’s Thorn, that has been summoned to their kingdom by necromancers and feeds on human blood. After Prince Chirp’s father is attacked by the plant and the royal court accuses Juniper of attempted murder, the animal squad works together to find out who is truly responsible for the Devil’s Thorn attacks.
Throughout the comic, the environment is largely portrayed as dangerous and hostile; unlike most of the comics in this database, this is a narrative about a threatening environment, not threats to the environment. Most obviously, the Devil’s Thorn plant grows to immense sizes and physically entangles characters in its teeth-filled vines. The characters also battle (and soon befriend) a giant turtle and a huge snake, and even the king’s beloved rose garden turns into a space of danger when the Devil’s Thorn nearly kills him. At the comic’s climax, the Dungeon Critters do manage to defeat the Devil’s Thorn and its summoners and clear Juniper’s name. However, the comic’s final pages include two panels depicting vines from the Devil’s Thorn creeping through the forest surrounding the castle, suggesting that the characters have not truly defeated the environmental threat.