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‘Once & Future #8:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Quick recap: Duncan and Bridgette made up. Sorta. It's kind of hard to hold a grudge if you’re working together on the family business. Galahad learned the cost of being the “greatest knight.” Meanwhile, Elaine resurrected the subject of probably the most famous Old English poem of all: Beowulf.

In my last review, I mistakenly referred to Beowulf as a Saxon, which he isn’t, and he makes that very clear in this issue. Beowulf’s arrival in Camelot signals a dark alliance of sorts, seemingly at the machinations of the mysterious Merlin. So basically, Beowulf, the famed monster slayer, is about to face off with a couple of modern-day monster hunters. Things are about to get really interesting… violently so.

This issue mostly serves as setup for future conflict, but Kieron Gillen handles this deftly with a lot of great character moments between Duncan and Bridgette. I don’t know why, but Bridgette’s entire aside about the value of candles made me cackle. I do wish that Rose and Elaine will play a larger role soon… they’re mostly relegated to sidekick status here, but they have so much cool story potential. The introduction of Beowulf and his alliance with Arthur is somewhat fascinating, since Arthur is very much “Britons First,” and Beowulf is neither English nor a Briton. #StoriesMatter because mash-ups like these highlight the absurdity of nationalistic and xenophobic pride. For instance, while Arthur is a British character, he speaks Old Brittonic, a language that’s not the national language of England today. On the other hand, Modern English, which is a distant derivative of Old English, actually came with the Anglo-Saxon settlers. Never mind that, consider that the “story” of King Arthur, especially chunks which are most familiar to the general public, like the Lancelot and Guinevere romance, are largely French additions to the lore. (A nice nod to this is the caparison on Galahad’s horse with the fleur-de-lis motif in the previous issue.) Not to put too fine a point on it, but nationalism tends to conveniently do away with large chunks of history to suit their narrative.

Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain keep bringing their A-game. Mora’s storytelling is excellent, where each panel tells the story. Bonvillain’s colors do some heavy lifting in terms of setting the tone, as well as complementing the linework; it’s never ambiguous if the supernatural is in play because of the color work.  Ed Dukeshire’s lettering is flawless, as usual. I love the choices made here, with Arthur’s script remaining in the otherworldly green juxtaposed with Beowulf’s normal-looking letters, and Merlin’s dark speech bubbles hinting at the occult, if not downright malice.

Overall, this is a generally uneventful issue, but there are promises of some new conflicts ahead. I do live for the Duncan/Bridgette team-up, though.

Creative Team: Kieron Gillen (writer), Dan Mora (artist), Tamra Bonvillain (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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