Review: Once and Future #1 is a Rollicking Adventure For Our Dark Times
Even before cracking the opening pages of Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain‘s Once and Future #1 seemed tailor-made for my own personal interests. It’s set in the beautiful English county of Somerset where I studied Jane Austen and Edgar Wright’s Spaced for a semester and has some deep dive Arthurian lore (The Questing Beast makes an appearance!). It also seeks to interrogate and apply those legends to the current state of the U.K., namely, Brexit, Boris Johnson, and all that white nationalist nonsense.
It’s set in the beautiful English county of Somerset where I studied Jane Austen and Edgar Wright’s Spaced for a semester and has some deep dive Arthurian lore (The Questing Beast makes an appearance!). It also seeks to interrogate and apply those legends to the current state of the U.K., namely, Brexit, Boris Johnson, and all that white nationalist nonsense.
However, Once and Future isn’t a political treatise, but the latest adventure in a line of magical quests, armed knights, and killing monsters that began with the Epic of Gilgamesh and were probably best represented in 20th popular culture by the two of the four Indiana Jones films. But what sets apart Gillen and Mora’s story from this previous ones is the team-up between the constantly flustered/audience surrogate Duncan and his grandmother Bridgette, who has a dry wit and is even sharper with various gun/edged weapon and knowledge of the supernatural forces of the British Isles that are illustrated in an almost twilight palette from Bonvillain.
After a Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Nigel Farage’s wet dream MacGuffin establishing cold open, Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora use humor to establish the characters of Duncan and Bridgette and their relationship. Duncan is the handsome, kind, yet klutzy one so he gets introduced wide eyed with his hands out after accidentally splashing his date with red wine. It instantly establishes him as the equivalent of Level 1 Dungeons and Dragons character, but he’s not an utter joke as he does an okay job later on with the Questing Beast and his car is the 21st century version of him and his grandmother’s knightly steed.
In contrast, Bridgette is introduced making killer quips about breaking her fellow old folks’ home residents’ fingers when they want to change the channel from local news stories about archaeological dig thefts/murders to the more pleasant Great British Bake-Off. Gillen and Mora subvert the “crazy old lady gets lost and freaks out” trope by making her walk in the woods discover a cache of weapons. Bridgette might have lost a step, but she’s still a total badass. Honestly, her take on Arthurian lore like Excalibur’s heal-every-wound scabbard being more valuable than the sword itself and wariness about the return of Arthur is just as cool as her action scene.
Sure, Once and Future has funny lines and hilarious reactions courtesy of Gillen and Mora, but it has a noble, earnest band together against the forces evil tone that makes it super endearing. Or, at least, that’s how energetic, if a little naive Duncan sees the world. Bridgette reads between the lines, and her dialogue about the iconic hero Arthur’s return maybe not being the best thing is a classic example of reading against the grain. It also connects to white nationalists/fascists in the real world using legendary imagery like Thor’s hammer to make their hate-filled movement cooler.
Once and Future #1 modernizes and humanizes the classic Arthurian legends by making the protagonists of the story that kind of nerdy, cute guy who says smart things in the back of a college class and his tough, no-nonsense grandma that’s been through some stuff. Kieron Gillen bolsters his quest plotline and monster fights with character-based humor and sociopolitical commentary while Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain bring an infectious energy with just a touch of darkness to the visuals. To cut it down to its core, Once and Future #1 entertains as just as well as it enlightens and uses myths and legends to bring hope to a world in need of salt of the Earth heroes like Bridgette and Duncan.
Story: Kieron Gillen Art: Dan Mora
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain Letters: Ed Dukeshire
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.8 Overall: 9.4 Recommendation: Buy
BOOM! Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review