“Plenty of things that are real are nonsense, love. Most things, even.”
I’ve always enjoyed the tales of King Arthur. When I was a teenager, I got hooked on watching John Boorman’s 1981 film Excalibur on VHS. I still believe it is the best movie adaptation of the old legend. I went on to read T. H. White’s wonderful novel The Once and Future King, and even dipped my toe into the deep waters of Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur. So I was intrigued to hear that BOOM! Studios were publishing a comic book based on the Arthurian Myth, only set in modern-day England.
When a group of Nationalists use an ancient artifact to bring a villain from Arthurian myth back from the dead to gain power, ex-monster hunter Bridgette McGuire escapes her retirement home and pulls her unsuspecting grandson Duncan, a museum curator, into a world of magic and mysticism to defeat a legendary threat.
Some might say there aren’t enough “strong female characters” in comics these days. Well, look no further than Kieron Gillen & Dan Moras’ Once & Future. Bridgette McGuire is a retired monster hunter. She’s also a grandmother. Her grandson, Duncan, has no idea about his gran’s “credentials”. He gets a call from her one evening and goes out to meet her in the middle of a forest. She is trying to open a trapdoor in the ground. Wondering what on earth is going on, Duncan takes over and opens the trapdoor revealing a stash of weapons. On picking up a huge gun with what appear to be spikes attached to it, Duncan asks:
“Wh-Wh-What the hell is this?”
“Put it down. We don’t need it.”
“What is it for?”
“Well, I used to hunt vampires.”
“You used to hunt vampires?”
“Yes, I used to. Then I ran out of vampires.”
Parts of Once & Future are very funny. Kieron Gillen can do humour. But what I really appreciated about this story was the way Gillen flips the traditional myth of King Arthur and poses a whole new set of questions about what it may mean today. The legend suggests that King Arthur will return in Britain’s hour of need. Gillen writes Bridgette saying:
“He’s said to return in Britain’s darkest hour. There’s something about that prophecy that always rubbed me up the wrong way… Never trust a prophecy that can be taken in two ways.”
The author goes on to ask, what if the return of King Arthur causes Britain’s darkest hour? It’s a great concept and one which the creators go on to explore as the story progresses.
Once & Future is a very entertaining story. It’s imaginative, exciting and funny, with some well-written witty banter between the two main characters, Duncan and his kick-ass grandmother Bridgette. I really enjoyed the way Gillen subverts the classic Arthurian myth and approaches the story from a different angle. Plus, I want to stress that the art and colouring in this book are stunning! Dan Mora is fast becoming my new favourite artist, and Tamra Bonvillain’s gorgeous colouring complements Mora’s art perfectly, especially in the more fantastic scenes.
Recommended, particularly for readers interested in the Arthurian myths.
Thanks for reading!