If you’ve been following the exploits of our merry band of heroes so far, suffice it to say that no summary I can write will do any modicum of justice to the sheer wackiness of the previous 29 issues. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and with Issue #30, Once & Future takes its final bow.
With the Pagan Arthur bested by the One True Queen of England, the focus shifts entirely to Bath and the River Lethe. Unfortunately for Duncan and Bridgette, Merlin and Mary stand in their way. With the new year underway, it’s only natural that some characters will resolve to change the trajectory of their paths, perhaps in drastic ways.
Kieron Gillen gives his creation a proper sendoff in this issue. It’s bittersweet in some ways, but, in the mode of epic stories like these, it’s also appropriately hopeful with the possibility of future stories; however, as Gillen says in his exiting remarks, this issue does close out this chapter for these characters. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series from start to finish. If I have any criticism of this last arc, I think that both Lancelot and Lear were a bit underdeveloped. As narratives go, though, perhaps the most relatable of the stories here is the one that’s been building up from the very beginning and that’s that family can be your source of greatest joy and pride, but it can also be the most damaging thing to one’s sense of self. In 30 issues, Gillen has interwoven themes of familial trauma, identity, and nationalism in such a deft way that it warrants a reread with a scholarly eye.
Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain’s team-up has been terrific throughout this series. Mora seamlessly translates Gillen’s story into a visual format that has felt fresh, exciting, touching, and, at times, bloody disgusting (in a good way!). Bonvillain’s colorwork is not just pretty to look at; it conveys tone and atmosphere (seemingly) effortlessly. Finally, a major shoutout to Ed Dukeshire and his lovely lettering work. I’ve been particularly impressed by the way he gives each supernatural creature a unique “voice” so that they can be distinguished from each other. These never seem intrusive and, in fact, feel extremely intuitive when reading.
The wrap-up: Gillen et al. have reinvented many of the classical myths and legends of Western Europe in a fun hodge-podge fashion that feels irreverent, relentlessly tongue-in-cheek, and while ridiculously fantastical, still grounded in themes that hit home.
Creative Team: Kieron Gillen (writer), Dan Mora (artist), Tamra Bonvillain (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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