REVIEW: Once and Future #17 Shines a Light on the Dark Side of Stories

Once and Future 17

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Once and Future #17 Review

Once and Future #17 picks up the pace and doesn’t slow down as stories collide. Once and Future #17 is written by Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Dan Mora, coloured by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettered by Ed Dukeshire; with variant covers by Dan Mora and Christian Ward.

Duncan, Lancelot, and Galahad face off in Otherworld, but only one can be the greatest knight. To prevent Otherworld from colliding with Earth in a most disastrous way Duncan better hope it’s him. Also, there’s a dragon, because there has to be a dragon.

Once and Future #17 is published by BOOM! Studios, and is available from March 24, 2021.

Once and Future #17, courtesy of BOOM! Studios
Once and Future #17, courtesy of BOOM! Studios

Once and Future #17 Story

If I had to give you an issue of a comic that has no chill it would likely be Once and Future #17. The story picks up with the showdown between our three knights and keeps the pace from there, making it clear that our protagonists are in a very tight spot as Merlin’s plans continue to unfold. Even Mary, still playing the role of Nimue, finds herself nothing more than a pawn in the story he wants to tell, and is not happy with the way he tells it.

This issue hinges on two key things; action and the momentum of plans in motion. The action is delivered with battles against dragons and clashes between knights, while maintaining a tension built upon characters well outside of any safety. The plans in motion we get to see unravel further, even as both we and the protagonists are still in the dark as to what those plans exactly entail. Merlin is manipulating all that the story allows him, mingling stories in such a way that even the experience Bridgette cannot see his true goal (though she still remains a delight of a character).

While the nature of story and the power it holds is never far from the surface in this series, this issue really brings it back to the forefront. Not only do Bridgette and Duncan take a few moments throughout to try and untangle the stories from one another to find the truth, but the darker side is also given further attention. Mary/Nimue and Merlin are both all too well aware that they are at the mercy of the story, unable to escape it, and can only hope that the ending is one that is kind to them.

It’s an easy thing to read theme; we are all at the mercy of the stories we try to weave about ourselves and the world, but those stories control us more than we do them. It’s exactly the kind of meta that Gillen continues to prove himself a master of, pulling apart the nature of the very entertainment he is engaging is with.

Once and Future Preview Art
Once and Future #17 Preview Art

Once and Future #17 Art

This issue gives Dan Mora some real chances to prove exactly how versatile he can be. There’s plenty in the way of more dark and unsettling imagery, from the centaur form of Sir Galahad to the very landscape of Otherworld itself, yet he also manages to get in those more emotional character moments and action that can only be described as epic in scope. There’s an early sequence of guns being fired that is absolutely beautiful, which is not something I ever thought I’d feel about gunfire. Also, the final page is something truly epic and will be living rent-free in my head for some time to come.

Bonvillain’s colours continue to be amazing and compliment Mora’s art so much. Everything Otherworld just has a sickly, unsettling nature about it due to the colour. It truly does feel like a place that is simultaneously both born of folklore and hell. Soldiers in tactical gear just shouldn’t quite work next to a dragon, yet I truly believe it’s the colour that makes it all work together so believably.

The lettering from Dukeshire is also top-notch, as it always is. Never does it detract away from the tension of the story or art, not even in the more dialogue-heavy sections where balloons are plentiful. I also believe it is the sign of a truly great letterer when they can utilize very distinctive dialogue bubbles for characters yet it never causes the reader to pause or pull them from the story, and that is something he certainly does.

Once and Future #17 Conclusion

This issue is a very fun and rather insane ride. It demands your attention and refuses to let you put it down until the end, and then leaves you desperately wanting more immediately. The final page is such a perfect hook for the next issue without being a full cliffhanger.

It may not really answer any of the many questions, and does ask a few more, but it navigates the lingering threads in a very satisfying way. Nothing feels wasted, as each character and idea get their moment to do something. It also gives the promise of far more exciting things waiting upon the horizon.


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