There Be Dragons: Reviewing ‘Once And Future’ #18
by Olly MacNamee
With the current story-arc coming to a close with ‘Once and Future’ #18 the thrills don’t come from the final battle itself but from what’s being set up next. A truly new dawn for Great Britain, but one that certainly isn’t trumpeting in a new Golden Age for the UK that’s for sure. Riveting stuff and a great way to keep readers on the edge of their seats until its return this summer.
Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora’s closing chapter to the latest story-arc in Once and Future #18 follows the trend of many a closing episode of a TV show’s season. The actual climax is covered for some of the book but it’s the aftermath, the set-up for future stories and the foreshadowing that covers a good deal of this issue and far more interesting than any big-ass battle for me.
With the Green Knight still at large as well as the meddling half-demon Merlin overseeing King Arthur’s restoration this saga is by no means finished yet. Judging by the evidence in this issue, there’s still a huge deal yet to come. If the United Kingdom is currently reeling from the consequences of both Covid-19 and Brexit, wait till you get a look at the end page of this issue. Now that’s a reality no-one could have prepared for! Although it could be easily argued our leaders didn’t prepare for the double-whammy of our real world problems either.
Then there’s the role of Britain’s Prime Minster in all of this too, isn’t there? We haven’t seen him for some time and his return here is a menacing one at that. Not too far from the real thing then. And, you can’t tell me Mora didn’t use our current resident of No.10 Downing Street as a model. The only difference is that Gillen and Mora invest their PM with more intelligence. Which isn’t hard. Although, the arrogant, self-entitled stance of grandeur he adopts is just the same.
But, for every Labour voting reader out there, the ending to this particular episode cannot help but raise a wry, darkly delicious smile, for all it’s grotesque glory so savagely and beautifully captured by Mora and colour artist Tamra Bonvillian. Oh Gillen, you are the bounder, but I love it! I imagine scene like these will be lost on many American readers. I read it with relish.
One point worth bring up here is how much I’ve enjoyed the development of Bridgette’s confused daughter, and mother of Duncan, Mary McGuire. In this most recent story-arc we have finally seen into her tragic past. All the better to understand where she’s at in the here and now. Something tells me she will become even more of a final character as this series progresses. Will Once & Future be her receptive arc, I wonder? After all, it’s a deft touch by Gillen to have a character initially introduced as a right-wing thinking villain become one we now empathise with somewhat. A woman sick of being the victim coming into her own? But one who clearly loves her instanced son. Will she finally cast off the various roles others – men – would have her inhabit and finally find her true self? I do hope so. She really is the dictionary definition of “misunderstood character” in this whole series. And, lest we forget, this book is becoming more and more a series dominated by its female characters; good and bad and anywhere in-between.
The ending -0 and that last page reveal – is one Hell of a cliffhanger to leave the readers dangling on as this series goes on a brief hiatus. Talk about leaving your fans wanting more. Or, wanting Mora?
After that howler, of a pun I’d best get my coat and leave.
Once and Future #18 is out now from BOOM! Studios