Again, Cullen Bunn makes the familiar, in the well trodden Arthurian legend, unfamiliar and so we have his slightly Lovecraftian take on the Lady of The Lake and a deal of betrothal she makes with the young king upon receiving Excalibur from her, one which could very easily cause problems further on down the line for Arthur. Especially as he is about to marry Guinevere. Talk about awkward.
And, the situation is only made worse by a demonic Merlin who seems to dislike the new queen and is already making plans to cause a wedge between these two young lovers. Plans that, as everyone even remotely familiar with the Arthurian legend knows, can only end up traveling along a well trodden path and the ultimate betrayal any wife can carry out against her husband. But, in Bunn’s retelling of this particular element of the Arthurian story, the consequences are shockingly surprising. Bunn is clearly very immersed in Arthurian lore to be able to play around with the key characters and storylines in such an original manner.
At times Bunn not only channels Sir Thomas Mallory in his storytelling but I can almost hear an, albeit a more Machiavellian, Merlin as played by Nicol Williamson in John Boorman’s film Excalibur. This is more a story of Merlin’s machinations than Arthur’s rise, and only the reader is aware of the evil that guides his plans for a naive and gullible newly anointed king.
Mirko Colak continues to build a world both horrific and beautiful with subtly muted colours across each page. An evocative piece that is only enhanced by Maria Santaolalla’s colour work work on this title.
Overall, this series has lived up to its promise of being darker and more horrific than previous stories while staying true to the legend in many ways. Of course, it will appeal to Game of Thrones fans as well as Arthurian nuts like me, but I would imagine the quality of the story as well as all aspects of the art would also draw new readers in, whether now or when it’s eventually collected in a trade paperback.
Unholy Grail #3 is out now from AfterShock Comics.