This volume is stellar. Adam Knave and D.J. Kirkbride have created an exciting, modernized version of the legendary tales of King Arthur, and Nick Brokenshire has illustrated a 21st-century icon in Rani as an ordinary, young, half-Indian woman who becomes a powerful, punk heroine with a perfect crown hairstyle. This volume exudes energy, and the characters are vivacious and inspiring – the perfect specimens of modern-day heroics.
The Once and Future Queen is filled with action and adventure, passion and romance. Rani is fearless, strong, and bold—a powerful heroine. Brokenshire has her rise out of the pages in powerful stances, ready to defeat any villain. Her confidence and poise make us feel like she can take on any challenge. Since Rani’s life is rather ordinary until she pulls the sword from the stone, she shows us that anyone can be a hero. The volume also demonstrates the importance of trust and camaraderie. Rani, Gwen, and Lance are a powerful force, and even though Rani is the queen, they show how effective they can be as a unit. The romantic relationships between the trio makes them even stronger. While there is potential for the triangle to be complicated, love and war work together to connect and fuel the group. Rani, Gwen, and Lance are a great team, feeding off each other’s energy and connected both emotionally and as fighters.
The battles against the fae are perfectly executed with enough violence and limb-splicing to keep us entertained and wanting more. The action scenes are well balanced with the scenes that are more contemplative and exploratory—where Rani seeks to understand her identity and her feelings while still maintaining healthy relationships with those she cares about. I love that Knave and Kirkbride involve her parents so much in their tale and present their healthy family dynamics. Rani’s family and friends are her support system and are all key players in her journey as she becomes the queen version of a modern King Arthur who needs to battle the army of evil fae.
Merlin is a comical figure who also helps Rani by providing her with history, resources, and magic. I love that Merlin is the same Merlin from the time of King Arthur. His character extends the fantasy and magic across time and space. He is universal, omnipresent, and an important force in helping Rani reach her full potential as a warrior.
Strong heroes, vicious villains, and an exciting plot drive this volume forward, and the art really makes everyone and everything come to life. The colors in this collection are stunning. I love they way that Brokenshire uses different shades of one color as an entire panel’s background or even in an entire panel. This allows the characters to pop out of the page. His color choices are fun and bold, which add to the fantasy of the tale. Rani’s moment with the sword in the stone is a perfect example of Brokenshire’s brilliance. Rani is golden and shines above the pink backdrop of images from Arthurian romance. I think Gwen’s face in the next panel is the perfect mirror of my own when I first saw it. The colors take this volume to a whole new place, making fantasy, legend, and the experiences of modern-day youth blossom and shine. The brightness is inviting and draws the readers into the world.
I also love that Frank Cvetkovic’s logo has the sword not only going through the letters but simultaneously making up parts of the Es. It’s as if the word QUEEN is one with the sword. The sword is an intrinsic part of Rani’s identity and visibly represented here with the logo. The storage place for Rani’s sword is also brilliant. The entire creative team was thoughtful about every detail, making reading and rereading this volume a truly enjoyable experience.
The Once and Future Queen is a cutting-edge, funky version of Arthurian romance. It is electric, bold, and inspiring. Rani and friends are millennial heroes—aggressive warriors ready to save the day. The action-packed adventures of volume one leave me wanting more and excited to root for a strong young woman who is an exemplar of true valor and modern-day nobility.