Quote of the month: “I also have my name, and that makes me strong.” – Duncan Idaho
Adapting Brian Herbert’s “Dune: House Atreides” to a monthly graphic novel has proven to be a compelling challenge for BOOM! Studios. The series has spent its first two issues meticulously setting up the many moving pieces of this beloved story, holding attention with its dynamic art and worldbuilding. But the series’ many parallel stories have so far left readers itching for more significant payoffs — which the third issue finally delivers.
This month’s installment kicks off by returning to the most cryptic narrative of “Dune: House Atreides” yet, as the Bene Gesserit land on the Harkonnen homeworld, Giedi Prime. The Reverend Mother and her entourage arrive at little fanfare, demanding an audience with the reluctant Baron Harkonnen. Last issue, the sisterhood discovered within its ancient prophecies that the birth of its messiah is only possible if the Baron conceives a child — now, it appears the Reverend Mother has volunteered herself to carry it.
Though it lacks the flashy opening action of previous issues, this compelling opening sequence sets the tone for what will be a more contemplative issue. Credit is partially due, as always, to illustrator Dev Pramanik’s expressive character work, which sells the influence that these characters command. The Baron meets the Gesserits with a semipermanent scowl and commands his henchmen with a tested patience, but the Reverend Mother holds all of the power in their exchange, speaking and moving with a coercive elegance.
But it’s also the first major spotlight of Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson’s writing chops. The exchange is a display of the Gesserits’ diplomatic power — and the value of the secrets they trade in — but also their honed talents of manipulation, so potent here that it’s clear why much of the galaxy regards it as witchcraft.
The restrained civility stands in stark contrast to events elsewhere on Giedi Prime, where Duncan Idaho is once again set loose for the Harkonnens to hunt for sport. The rules, however, are much different this time: Having been forced to watch as Rabban Harkonnen murder his parents in front of him, Idaho is no longer playing along in hopes of freeing his family from slavery — he’s running for his life.
With everything else at play in the galaxy, it’s easy to forget about the titular House Atreides — but the third issue also sees Leto arrive on the planet Ix, where he has been dispatched by his father to train in courtly politics and represent their house.
Though fans of the original novel know that this plotline will soon grow in importance, Leto’s story has been the driest of all the narratives thus far, hardly worth mentioning in previous recaps. But the third issue gives the central character some long-overdue development as he explores the wondrous underground cityscapes of Ix.
Leto is in awe of the technological wonders he witnesses — most notably the subterranean shipyard where the Ixians produce their massive spaceships.
Even though the issue closes on one of the most important events in the Dune timeline, just as in every issue before it, our supposed protagonist is given little time in the spotlight. The imperial planetologist, Kynes — dispatched to Arrakis to study its ecology — comes upon a group of Harkonnen soldiers huntine the planet’s indigenous Fremen. Having come to empathize greatly with the Fremen in his studies, Kynes draws his sword and wades into the skirmish to defend the Fremen.
Enfranchised fans will recognize immediately that Kynes will, as a result of this incident, come to alter the religion and culture of the Fremen forever, setting a radical new prophecy for the planet of Dune into motion. But it’s critical that the importance of the scene isn’t lost on new readers either — and with Pramanik and colorist Alex Guimarães’ beautiful and grandiose visual style, there’s little chance of it.
The final pages of “Dune: House: Atreides #3,” make one thing abundantly clear: What is happening on Dune has the potential to soon shake the galaxy to its core — and we’ll have to wait until the next issue to watch it play out.