If you're a comics geek finding yourself with some extra reading time on your hands, or maybe you're not a comics geek but are quarantined and bored enough to become one... then look no further than the newly released Once & Future: Volume 1; The King is Undead by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain.
This compilation was just released last week, and includes the first six issue story arc of the new series. Rather than try to bumble through crafting a summary that will capture the essence of the tale without giving too much away... I'll just "back cover" this bad boy and give you the gist in the creator's own words!
When a group of Nationalists uncover the fabled scabbard of Excalibur, they use its magic to bring King Arthur back from the dead and fulfill a dark prophecy. But as the flood gates open, only retired monster hunter Bridgette McGuire knows how to stop these mythic forces. Pulling her unsuspecting grandson, Duncan, into a world he thought only existed in stories, the two embark on a quest that will force them to navigate the complicated history of the McGuire family, and confront the deadly secrets of Britain's past that threaten its very future.
An intriguing concept, no? Believe it or not, I had actually already purchased all of the single issues that comprise this edition; but hadn't yet gotten around to reading them as they sat in the endless pit that my "to read" pile has become. When I saw this was being released right when I knew I had several days off to hopefully enjoy it, I preordered the digital edition on Comixology.
It's a sickness being bitten by the collecting, reading, and creating bugs when it comes to the world of comics. For some stories that I really enjoy I'll end up buying them three times over! "Floppy" single issues for collecting, digital editions for reading and studying the artwork, and then I still can't resist adding a gorgeous hardcover edition to my bookcase if it's a story I really love. So, Once & Future already got the double purchase out of me, and it'll probably capture the trifecta whenever they release an expensively priced and lavishly constructed "omnibus" edition... I enjoyed it that much. I'm also afraid King Arthur will kick my ass if I don't buy it...
Without having read the comic, I already knew I wanted the digital edition just from browsing the artwork. I've had my eye on Dan Mora's stuff for a while. It's a wonderful blend of realism and cartooning that's expressive and emotional, able to capture action, drama, comedy and majesty in equal proportion.
What really caught my eye was Tamra Bonvillain's colors. The palettes and implementation are gorgeous. Studying color work is probably the number one reason I opt for digital editions at times. It allows me to easily screen capture and "color pick" in various graphic softwares, to help me "reverse engineer" the process and study the colorists choices and work, and hopefully implement it in my own.
Once & Future really lets the color work shine as it bounces between settings both mundane and mystical. Whenever the magical world begins to intrude... it shows! Think of it like a beautiful version of Silent Hill. Instead of darkness and ash you get some magical strobe lighting!
All the art is in service to a great story by Kieron Gillen. Some stories are "high concept." Some stories are "character driven." Gillen manages to satisfy both sides of the coin, with a tale that is epic in scope, touching on themes that speak to the very power of storytelling itself... while also writing fun and endearing characters.
Ah, a sequence that captures so much of what's good about Once & Future. Entertaining writing? Check. Effective and expressive illustration? Check. Beautiful color work? Check.
... man, I can't wait to read more!
Fortunately, while the series was originally announced as a mini-series, it was subsequently made into an ongoing, with more issues already following up on this impressive debut story arc. I can tell I'll be reading Once & Future for as long as Gillen, Mora, and Bonvillain want to keep putting it out!
So, if you're looking to read some great modern fantasy fiction, give Once & Future a look! You can find it in digital and physical editions for order online or do your best to reach out to your local comic shop and support them. In this time of lockdowns and quarantines, many are still finding creative ways to assist customers in acquring much needed art and entertainment.
Take care and stay healthy everyone! I'll see you again when I find more comics that I just have to recommend!
- Bryan "the Imp" Imhoff
... I wonder which of those weapons Gran will put to use when she sees that Uber charge on her credit card statement...
Exploring the Unlimited brings you comics reviews and related information, with a focus on stories available on todays online platforms such as Marvel Unlimited, DC Universe and Comixology Unlimited, which help make thousands of comics accessible and affordable worldwide.
All photos taken by @bryan-imhoff and are copyright their respective owners; used here under fair use for review and criticism.