Story: DJ Kirkbride, Adam P. Knave
Art: Nick Brokenshire
Colors: Nick Brokenshire
Letterer: Frank Cvetkovic
What They Say:
It’s out with the old myths and in with the new as a nineteen-year-old chess prodigy pulls Excalibur from the stone and becomes queen. Now, magic, romance, Fae, Merlin, and more await her! Lend her your axe as the creators of Amelia Cole start a new age of adventure!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
One of the things that I like about stories in general is the way that the familiar can be reinvented, over and over in some cases. The story of King Arthur is certainly a familiar one that has had so many iterations in comics, books, TV, and film just in the last thirty years that it really is astounding when you think about it. Dark Horse Comics is dipping into that well this year with the new series from DJ Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave with artist Nick Brokenshire. Like the other interpretations of the old tale, the opening installment is one where you spend more time trying to break down the differences and what it’s trying to do than the story itself, which is a bit of a distraction in some ways. But what we do get here is essentially what I expected – and wanted – in that it’s an interpretation for this generation. Where I had Camelot 3000, this is what we get now and it should work well.
The main thing with this book is that it is, sadly, a bit too on the nose. We’re introduced to Rani Arturus, a nineteen-year-old woman who lives in Portland with her parents and is probably close to a chess prodigy. Her trip to England for a match is fun to watch at the start as it sets the family dynamic, making her parents an integral part of the story rather than just something to be forgotten about, and her matches go well until a pretty blond at the Cornwall match smiles and flirts with her from a distance. That causes her to lose the match and walk off in a funk because of the expense of the trip, that she flushed out on the first day, and the uncertainty about her future since she’s not sure that chess could even be a career for her. It’s a lot of material in a short space but it’s presented against the kind of outdoors backdrop of Cornwall that works to change her headspace.
Naturally, it doesn’t take long for her to accidentally find a cave with a sword in a stone that she can retrieve, comically believing that it’s just a tourist trap. When it’s removed and she’s visited by Merlin in a spacesuit talking about how time is layered and he’s working his way backward, the book starts to really set the tone for what it wants to be. Declaring that Arthur was a fraud back in the day, Merlin is ready for her to unite the world and shows her how to rework the sword to operate in the modern world (just gotta think hard, make it a tattoo!) and is basically content to wait for her to really take it all in. It moves quickly from there with the trip back home, though at least she shows her parents what she can do before they go so they can quietly freak out as well, and the setup begins to draw her knights to her that are compelled. And she’ll need them soon, too, as the Fae are ready to make this their time and break through to the human world.
As one might expect from the first issue, The Once and Future Queen is all about getting the right things into place and there’s a whole lot of familiar elements here. With Rani Arturus taking the stage, the introduction of Gwen and Lance, and some fun with how Merlin is operating definitely brings the expected pieces out to play with. The team has put together a solid introduction, acknowledging the past but making it clear that it wasn’t what it was supposed to be, and offering up some nice if expected changes here. And it’s one where Nick Brokenshire is definitely giving it a distinctive feeling that has a great kind of rawness to it that feels earned, particularly with the color work being applied to it. This is one of the more adapted and reworked concepts out there as Kind Arthur has had so many variations over the years but the curiosity with it is to see what it is that fits in today’s worked compared to ones done ten or twenty years ago, or further back. I think they’ve got some good stuff going on here and it has a lot of potential – if it has the opportunity to slow down just a bit and not throw too much at the reader too fast, allowing us to get to know the characters as they begin to realize the truth of who they are.
Age Rating: 15+
Released By: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: March 1st, 2017