Review: A New Story Arc Resurrects Another Arthurian Antagonist From Legend In ‘Once & Future’ #13

by Olly MacNamee


‘Once & Future’ #13 kicks off an all-new storyline with the resurrection of yet another legendary menace with ties to the Arthurian legend. Kieron Gillen eases us into this new chapter with a family reunion and a new quest. Find Elaine, Bridgette’s estranged daughter! But, this is an issue that builds up the tension even before the final page reveal. A great start to the latest new chapter in this sensational saga.


A new issue and a new storyline! Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora catch us up with Bridgette, her grandson, Duncan and Rose, a bystander with more links to this story and to Duncan, than originally presented. 

While Bridgette seems to have been putting her feet up, Duncan has been busy in his new role taking on pagan threats across the UK only hinted at in a swift but effective montage of just three panels, but three panels that imply a whole lot more to readers.

Of course, King Arthur is still at large, as is Bridgette’s daughter, Elaine, who Bridgette is keen to find before Merlin can. I feel as this ongoing unravels we will be seeing a redemptive arc for this troubled character who seems to be going through one identity cross after another. I blame the parents!

Fascinatingly, Bridgette once again refers to ‘the story’ that they all find themselves inhabiting. Duncan is both ‘Percival’ and ‘Beowulf’; both questing heroes following the all consuming 12 stages of the hero’s quest rooted in myths, legend and fairy tales across time and across cultures. Duncan’s role as the heroic archetype seems only be reaffirmed with the mention in this new issue of questing knight Palamedes from Arthurian legend, and a callback to the very first issue too. Then, Duncan was warned by his nan not to go chasing “too hard”. Palamedes spent a lifetime chasing this beast, but even his quest came to an end eventually. What will Duncan’s fate be? Or, will he be able to break away from the rigidity of the Hero’s Quest narrative to write his own future, with Rose?

With the final page reveal of this issue, it would seem Duncan must shift again into yet another hero’s quest and another hero’s story. Is he trapped in his own story? To continue on the same path again and again and simply inhabiting others’ stories? It would seem Bridgette has had some dealing sin this area herself in the past, and involving Duncan’s dad. Is this a case of history repeating itself? Is Duncan doomed to repeat the role his father seems to have had, that is heavily hinted at here by Bridgette. A ‘mentor’ who doesn’t always reveal the whole truth.

The dynamic duo that is Dan Mora on art and Tamra Bonvillian on colour art never fail to deliver anything but a brilliant issue. Even when illustrating the kind of grim, bare-faced pubs of some part of Britain – in this case a sad, boxy affair situated in the middle of nowhere, but somewhere in Avon –  these two add a little sprinkle of magic. Gillen must be working overtime on providing Mora with references to this part of England, but it’s worth it. While most readers won’t necessarily appreciated these efforts, this is one that certainly does. It’s a side of English life and culture that is under-represented and it’s great to see in this series. This is the West Country – as we call it here in the UK – which includes Bristol as well as Salisbury and the county of Cornwall, both of which have strong, long ties to the Arthurian legend. The home of Stone Henge, Tintagel Castle and Glastonbury. A part of England steeped in magic potential and ripe for the setting of this particular story.

With this third arc, there is certainly an undeniable pattern to storytelling emerging. But, maybe that’s one of the points to this series? Gillen exploring the very fabric of the ‘Hero’s Quest’ and the archetypes therein. In the first arc we had King Arthur himself, with the second arc we get given Beowulf. And now we have a third legendary figure revealed at the end of this issue. One that I am stoked to see and another character with strong ties to King Arthur’s story. Although the cover hints at his identity, I won’t spoil it here.

Once & Future #13 is out now from BOOM! Studios

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