Bridgette, the mouthy matriarch at the centre of this fantasy horror saga once more comes into her own again in this issue as she hatches a cunning plan to effectively release a scheme that would see the whole of the United Kingdom suffer a bout of collective amnesia. All talked through in the gloriously magical Sherwood Forest they have been suing to transport them around Britain. A veritable alternative tourist guide for any readers inspired by the Arthurian legend and its many geographical hot spots across this island of ours. And, a reminder of the beauty of this country too. On some level, Kieron Gillen seems to be writing a love letter to the country he calls home. And why not? If the lockdown of Covid has taught many of us anything, it’s that Great Britain is a treasure trove of historical cities and ancient, beautiful countryside.
But, I digress.
While I found this issue once again intriguing, especially in its careful positioning of Rose, Bridgette and Mary/Elaine/Nimue as the true beating heart of this traditionally male dominated legend, it was somewhat jarring when we fastforward a few months to December with a montage of various snapshots filling the reader in on highlights the trio of Monster Hunters embarked upon. It felt as though Gillen, aware of his end goal, is in somewhat of a hurry to get there. I for one would have loved to have seen more of a Glastonbury festival overcome with magic and monsters and a very hippy-like Merlin. Maybe when the dust has settled on this tale there’s a one-shot or two in there somewhere.
Having said that, it’s an issue that once again packs in a good deal of storytelling too, as we dip in on Bridgette et. al., Mary, as well as Lancelot and the return of the tragic figure of Galahad. A character who may yet redeem himself I think as he is strong-armed into the current quest for the Holy Grail. All this and more. It took me a second look through to recognise just how much Gillen packs into each issue, including that aforementioned flash forward.
As artist Dan Mora showcased in Klaus – the comic I first cane across his magnificent and magical art – he has nothing to prove as not only one of the best fantasy artists in comics, but one of the best comic book artists working today. Whether he is capturing the less well known parts of the UK I doubt he’s ever visited, like Margate, or adding that little bit more exaggeration to the flora and fauna of Sherwood Forest to sustain the magic tone of this series, Mora always dazzles. And, as ever, the colour work of Tamra Bonvillain adds that extra sparkle to the magic, as well as a darker tone when it comes to the more horrific elements of the supernatural and horrific. And, there’s one or two of these more macabre moments occurring throughout this issue too.
What’s interesting is that with so much included, it’s interesting that King Arthur. – any of ‘em – are not included. Although, a very portentous and highly iconic cliffhanger to this issue would suggest they won’t be missing for long.
Once and Future #26 is out now from BOOM! Studios