First things first: The title of this new comic book series is a reference to T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, a not-so-subtle nod at Great Britain’s most famous fictional (?) monarch, King Arthur. Instead of a straight take on the Arthurian legends, Kieron Gillen’s tale sets itself up to be in the vein of the action/adventure genre, much in the tradition of classics like the Indiana Jones saga or, more recently, the Uncharted video game series.
At the center of this epic tale is Duncan, a bumbling, but brawny (He’s a “rugby-playing academic!”), every guy and his extremely formidable “Gran” Bridgette. Things are thrown into motion when a 6th century scabbard is stolen from an archeological site in Cornwall (incidentally, one of the areas traditionally associated with the abode of the Lady of the Lake), alerting Bridgette to nefarious plans afoot. The first issue largely deals with Duncan and Bridgette joining together, and Kieron Gillen furnishes their interactions with the usual mix of exposition and some humor for good measure. That being said, Gillen manages to keep his characters from sounding rote and – dare I say it – boring. Bridgette, as the wisecracking ex-vampire-hunting badass, is a hoot and three quarters. One of my favorite irreverent moments involves the subversion of the familiar “ultimate weapon” trope, along with the suggestion that Arthur was much more than just a “good guy.”
Aside from the usual formula, Gillen weaves in a whiff of topical and political issues. In this case, it seems like commentary on Brexit will be in order. One of the murderous thieves that steal the scabbard says that their mission is to get “England back,” hinting at a nationalist agenda. (Also, see their buttons!) Furthermore, there’s the issue of the prophecy that surrounds Arthur’s return: “He’s said to return in Britain’s darkest hour,” which Bridgette darkly proclaims could either mean that Arthur’s return is either the result of, or the cause of, Britain’s darkest hour.
Dan Mora’s artwork is brilliant as ever here. His character designs ooze charisma, and the action beats are easy to follow. He marries the mundane, real-life stuff with the fantastical seamlessly; it feels very Harry Potter-ish without being entirely derivative. The colors by Tamra Bonvillain complement Mora’s linework really nicely by adding a lot of dimension and texture.
Overall: If the rest of this series follows in its footsteps, Issue #1 is clearly the beginning of something fun and special. Next stop: Glastonbury (believed by some to be the site of Avalon, another important site to the Arthurian myth).
Creative Team: Kieron Gillen (writer), Dan Mora (artist), Tamra Bonvillain (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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