Once & Future, Vol. 1: The King is Undead by Kieron Gillen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Well, this is a heckuva lot better than the last graphic novel I read.
takes the King Arthur mythos and turns it on its head: what if Arthur
is actually an undead zombie tyrant, resurrected in the modern day by a
murderous cult? Arthur wants to drag the entire island of Britain into
the "otherworld," an alternate dimension where witches and monsters
rule. The only people standing in his way are Duncan McGuire, a shy,
clumsy dork dragged willy-nilly into the monster-hunting and
Grail-questing business by his grandmother, Bridgette. Bridgette raised
Duncan by herself, in isolation, preparing him for the day he will have
to go up against the undead King.
This world takes the broad
strokes of Arthurian legend and turns them just a bit off, a shade
sideways, resulting in a fresh take on a hoary old story. It has a good
deal to say about the concept of stories as well, since the people who
know the truth behind the legends are the conduits the monsters can use
to gain access to this world. Which is why Duncan has been kept in
ignorance of the fact that he has been raised by his grandmother to be
the Round Table's Percival, destined to quest for the Holy Grail in the
Otherworld and keep Zombie Arthur's minions from getting their hands on
it. Duncan's grandmother, Bridgette, is a complex character, a badass
old woman who nonetheless has lied to and manipulated Duncan his entire
life. This family drama is just as important to the story as the
monster-slaying and zombie-resurrecting, and there's a nice balance to
be found between the two.
The art is surprisingly bright for the
general darkness of the story, I suppose to serve as a contrast. The
"coda" at the end, the equivalent of an after-credits scene in a Marvel
movie, introduces the one major character not mentioned...and promises
the birth of a new story with, by the looks of it, further mayhem and
bloodshed. I think I'm intrigued enough to pick it up.
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