Once & Future, an all new Fantasy Tale
Modern fantasy. An oxymoron at the best of times. Especially when looking at Fantasy tales set against a modern backdrop. For the most part, they don’t work. Or spend too much time flirting with campy magics. Or rely only on mythical beasts or tropes of the genre. Less on character development or the motivation of the self.
Once & Future #1, the all-new fantasy meets modern world comic book out of the minds of writer Kieron Gillen and artist Dan Mora, begins to break that mold. Creating cracks for new flavour and familiar yet otherworldly adventures in a stale and loveless sub-genre.
What pushes Once & Future #1 forward is paying tribute to the world that Mora and Gillen build from the first panel. We are introduced to a world not too dissimilar than our own. A modern day beginning with characters who bleed credibility in the rapport they build with the reader early on.
Gillen pens a story story involving an awkward yet reluctant hero (Duncan), his girlfriend (Rose) and his grandma, who was probably a vampire hunter in another life. Gillen commands each page’s dialogue through scribing the thoughts, fears and motivations of all three characters, in masterful strokes. While other works of fiction take the make it up as we go approach, Once & Future leaves the feeling of confidence in the reader. It’s little wonder this issue has sold out threefold on the distributor level. This is a fantasy epic with the journey well and truly mapped out.
A nefarious sub plot runs in the background as a shadow group of Nationalists work to usurp power through obtaining artifacts linked to King Arthur. Artifacts that will pose a threat to Duncan and his grandma is future issues. Perhaps even raising King Arthur from the dead.
A threat all too real as Gillen retcons english mythology and history itself with the chilling warning, “Arthur could return at Britain’s greatest hour… or cause it.” Proving that Once & Future is an apt title for this myth meets 21st century saga.
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Colours and Humour
Dan Mora and colourist Tamara Bonvillain do a fantastic job with echoing the tone of Gillen’s dialogue. Mora’s design illustrate a familiar yet partially alien environment. Capturing the symbiosis of old meets new and vice versa. Despite championing the pencil work surrounding the main characters – its the facial expressions that Dan Mora has mastered to a degree of elitism. Facials captured perfectly in both major and minor panels. Because that’s exactly how my gran would look at me if, she too, had just shot me in the side of the face. Fingers crossed she doesn’t. Oh that’s right. She’s dead.
Bonvillain’s palettes really out as clear wins. The contrast in the skin tones to their surroundings are a rare talent when a colourist gets it right. And Bonvillain has. Clearly a stand out. Not just in this book but also amongst her peers who have opted for dark and bold of recent years.
Bold contrasts of light versus the dark echoes the sentimentality of this new series. While servants of the big bad stack up their chess pieces, the main characters begin their understanding of the supernatural and fantastical beasts. Amid a slew of black humour inserted from a character that answers : what if Van Helsing was a senile old woman? And while we wait for that answer, the comedic value of her shooting her grandson in the face, will just have to do.
Retconning the King Arthur myth is a stroke that pulls on the emotional trigger of my childhood. Nothing but fresh and interesting characters with just enough tropes to bring you up to speed within the first couple of pages. Aptly named for all it achieves, Once & Future #1 is one of those issues you just can’t help but power through.
You can pick up your copy of Once & Future #1 through Comixology or from your local comic book store.
How did we rate Once & Future #1? 6 Sodas.
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Editor & Writer. When not immersed in questionable 90s pop culture I can be found covering News and Reviews. Convinced 4/4 time signatures were invented by the devil.