The return of Merlin allows us to see some of his magic at work. While his character is typically associated with magic, the inclusion of the fae realm in this series brings in a whole new element of fantasy, making for endless possibilities of the ways magic can infiltrate the real world.
Merlin also turns out to be quite the storyteller—which is especially amusing since he is still wearing the spaceman outfit. Merlin knows the history of trans-realm conflict and explains the plans of the King in Shadow to take over Rani’s earth realm. Introduced briefly in issue #1, Morgana gets more play in this issue, as we see her connection to the fae king. I love the comment that she is wearing a “human-skin suit,” which immediately makes me wonder whether under the disguise she looks as diabolical as the fae king.
I especially like the contrast this series has with T. H. White’s novel, The Once and Future King. King Arthur is a legendary figure, whereas Rani is so relevant, so now. The 21st century allows King Arthur to be transformed into a strong, multiracial, lesbian woman. Rani is a leader and hero who triumphs as a figure of the socially underrepresented. She is not a mythical figure; she is real but can tap into fantastic powers.
This series contains several moments of self-discovery and looking into the inner power of individuals. Rani learns more about herself, her strengths, and her feelings. Between Rani’s abilities to call upon Excalibur and her budding romance with Gwen, the modern King Arthur figure emerges.
As in the first issue, I really love Nick Brokenshire’s use of color, especially when he color blocks panels. The single-colored settings make the characters pop—a larger-than-life, sword-wielding Rani looks like she is about to charge out of one page, as she is positioned ready for battle over three panels, each composed of shades of a single color. It’s dynamic and exhilarating. The colors also illuminate the fae realm during Merlin’s story time. I also love the details of swirls, stars, and circles, all serving as reminders that we are in a fantasy story. There is a nice balance between Rani, who feels like a real, modern woman and the fantastic elements that have infiltrated her world.
This second issue successfully develops characters and conflict and hints at a new one to come regarding Gwen and Lance (and knowing the source material tells us where this may likely lead). Knave and Kirkbride continue to impress with their brilliant, modern, re-imagined tale.