Review: Everyone Must Play Their Part In ‘Once And Future’ #23

by Olly MacNamee


Mary McGuire has her sights set on her own mother while other characters play their part in the unfolding story. Some more knowingly than others. ‘Once and Future’ #23 is another magical and macabre issue with a good deal of intelligent twists.


Once more writer Kieron Gillen delves deep into Britain’s ancient mythical past for inspiration as the two reiterations of King Arthur fight it out, off page, in Once and Future #23. And once more these additions add to the richness of the story on both the literal and thematic level. Like the King Arthur of Sir Thomas Malory’s romantic work, Le Morte D’Arthur, is the more sanitised and favoured version of the legendary king many recognise today, so too have we had other sanitised versions of past pagan myths and legends too. In this case, a character immortalised by William Shakespeare, whom we learnt last issue was Britain’s greatest ever monster hunter. One who’s identity I won’t spoilt for you here, as it’s the big reveal of this issue. But, again, I was surprised at Gillen’s fastidious research and ability to connect these ancient stories into his larger, connected narrative. A narrative that is both fantastical in scale and contemplative of the very nature of stories and how characters, such as King Arthur and others, can be tamed and captured by the written word. 

Dan Mora once more revels in the details of this make believe England, wonderfully capturing the romantic air of the more chivalric Arthur’s kingdom while laying on the darkness of the Otherworld when depicting the pagan Arthur’s domain. And, as ever, further realised through the meticulous colour choices of Tamra Bonvillain. 

While Mary McGuire – the otherwise “Nimue” – has her sights set on her own mother, the steely Bridgette, her son Galahad continues to roam this series as a character for whom tragedy looms large. A once magnificent knight, in the eyes of the original nationalist conspirators led by Mary, he is a lonely monster trying to find his part in this story. What his ultimate role will be, however, is a good way off just yet. And like the Questing Beast, he wanders through this story only to be hunted. For now.

And it’s not just the main cast of characters that have to live up to their roles either. Just wait till you get a load of Jack, a seemingly castaway peripheral character who also must live up to one of his particular namesake. Damn you, Gillen, why did I not see that on coming?

Can the past be re-written when no matter the version of the legend, King Arthur’s story remains, at its core, the same? Yes, stories do mutate, evolve and even weaken its characters, but can they truly escape their destinies? Well, Gillen himself is the storyteller of this particular reiteration, so I suppose it is in his hands to create new paths to travel and new endings. And as such, he’s still got me guessing, which is a big part of the allure of this series. Once and Future is not only a great and gripping fantasy horror but also a magical road trip around England’s rich legends of yore. 

Once and Future #23 is out now fro BOOM! Studios

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