(+++ WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Once and Future #10 +++)
Duncan is stranded without a cab ride while Bridgette is stuck facing Grendel all on her lonesome in Once and Future #10 from Keiron Gillen, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain and Ed Dukeshire.
That about sums up this lastest instalment, but there’s far more to it that just that, as Gillen loads this issue with a great deal of fun besides. I mean, the threat is a savage one, and one that may even be too big for Bridgette to cope with, but with her smart-arse and snappy dialogue and self-assurance (well, until the book’s cliffhanger ending that is) you can’t help but raise a wry smile to the events of this issue. Even one of the more horrific moments of this issue is one laden with humour, dark as it is.
The moment I am referring to, and which many may consider a spoiler – hence the warning preceding this review – is when the local rural constabulary arrive to try and lend a hand. You’ll recognise then straight away. Well, you will if you’ve ever watched Hot Fuzz, as the spitting images of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s characters – Nick Angel and Danny Butterman, respectively – are met with a threat they could never imagine, only for Grendel to chomp down on Pegg’s doppelgänger in a very cinematic, exceptionally well executed scene indeed. Like I said, what should be a horrific death is elevated because of the casting of such recognisable faces.
Colour is a very important element to this book, and Bonvillain used the colours she has made a point of associating with Arthur and the Otherworld to foreshadow the coming threat very effectively, while Mora brings the action and pace required as we switch between Bridgette’s battle and Duncan’s cab ride into catastrophe.
Mora’s continual attention to architectural detail of existing buildings from this part of the UK, as well as the scattered references to UK culture in general, such as the Great British Bake Off and poet, Carol Ann Duffy – our one-time Poet Laureate – imbued this whole issue, nay this whole series so far, with a very British veneer. You could almost image Captain Britain to drop in at any time. I imagine. any Anglophiles reading this must be over the moon as Gillen mines our rich literary and mythical history to create a comic book in which one of the main parts goes to an elderly lady. Itself a rather refreshing presentation of pensioners you do not often see. It reminds me, intentionally, of the archetypal mentor. Ben Kenobi, Gandalf, Merlin. But in recent decades such mentors are not always elderly, sadly, thereby diminishing the opportunity for any character of a certain age to break the stereotypes we cast them as in contemporary media. I’m all for it, and Gillen ensures that Bridgette gets all the best lines too.
Furthermore, Bridgette breaks the mould by being female, unlike many, many mentors of our myths, legends and fairy tales. Something Carol Ann Duffy herself commented upon in a poetry collection from some time ago now – The World’s Wife (1999) – in which she recasts women from myths, legends and fairy tales a from the point of view of women, very often giving voice to the hitherto unsung women close to famous men. Or, am I reading too much into this? Once a teacher of English Literature, always one, I suppose. And, we do love finding hidden depths that may simply not be there. I just can’t help feeling referencing her and not our current Poet Laureate Simon Armitage – who himself translated Beowulf a number of years ago to – is simply a coincidence.
All-in-all, another satisfying issue, that balances well-paced danger and action with humour, beautifully executed and out now from BOOM!Studios.