Ultra-normal, if a tad clumsy, Duncan McGuire leads a quiet, academic life, until the night his grandmother absconds from her retirement home. But wait a minute – how is this connected to a King Arthur reference? Find out in our review of Once & Future #1 from BOOM! Studios.
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Dan Mora
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Matt Gagnon
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: August 14, 2019
Previously in Once & Future: Many years ago, when Arthur was King, he united the Britons and the rest his history, or perhaps legend. But what if it was history, and what if the magic was real, and what if there could still be repercussions for today?
THE DAY GRAN ELOPED FROM THE RETIREMENT HOME
Mixing classic legend with a currently topical setting is a great recipe for adventure in Once & Future #1. The introductory scene really grabbed my attention. An archeologist who has been excavating near a lakebed in Cornwall is excited to show off his finds to a woman dressed all in black. His prize find is a gorgeous scabbard, but it isn’t his for long as the woman’s three confederates come in and take it at gunpoint.
Flash cut to a retirement home in Somerset where the news mentions a murder at an archeological site. Many of the residents would rather switch to the Bake Off, but one older lady, rolling a smoke, sweetly threatens to break people’s fingers if they change the channel. The news stays on. This is Bridgette, who wants to smoke a little before bed tonight.
Then in Bristol we meet a young man (Duncan) on a date which is going badly. He has just tipped his glass of wine over – on the young lady – and his phone rings. It’s his Gran’s retirement home. She’s apparently wandered off, which has never been a problem before. She’s always been independent and moving into the home was even her idea. Almost before Duncan can take a breath, his phone rings again, and this time it’s Gran. She has a problem, and she needs his help. Oh, this is a beautiful set up. We don’t know what to expect, but we know it will be good.
He catches up with her out in the woods attempting to pry a hatch open. She needed some things, including Duncan’s muscles. He helps her and imagine his surprise on finding a cache of serious weaponry and things like silver bullets. Duncan is learning a few things today, such as that Bridgette used to be a vampire hunter. (I like her so much.) And then he accuses her of always rolling her eyes at supernatural stuff when he was growing up. Then she asks him if he knows what the Questing Beast is. And why ask? Because it is there, of course, which leads into a brilliant little action scene.
Duncan hits the point where he’s just can’t handle this anymore and he blathers as his Gran finishes getting stuff together. She starts talking about the scabbard; he talks about getting her back to the home. She pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot him. He can’t believe she would ever shoot him, so of course she does. And off they go toward Glastonbury. She tells him more about the scabbard, how it is magical, how it heals all wounds, how the sword is somehow much more famous. He asks about the sword.
This should come as no surprise – the sword is Excalibur. In a touch I really enjoy, Bridgette insists it is not Arthur’s sword – it belongs to one of the Ladies of the Lake. They just loaned it to him. But she’s afraid someone again wants to hurry along the prophecy about Arthur returning in Britain’s darkest hour.
FROM THE MUNDANE TO THE FANTASTIC
I like the scene setting in Once & Future #1. We get these establishing shots that are so ordinary, even bucolic, certainly no-nonsense. And then as each scene ramps up, things just make a complete shift into the dramatic, even mythological. It sets up a great rhythm, especially as much of the drama has a dark overtone to it.
The character work is a lot of fun. There is some nice attention paid to drawing the old people in the retirement home, and Bridgette does look like an independent, somewhat crotchety, old lady. I like how she can turn on the sweet and innocent face. And the change that we see in her when she’s in the woods is cool. We can tell immediately that something is up, that she’s more than she seems. Her little smile as she confesses to being a vampire hunter is terrific. Her unflappable calm as Duncan comes face to face with the supernatural is something to behold.
BOTTOM LINE: SUPERNATURAL AND DELIGHTFUL
I was pleasantly surprised by Once & Future #1 and just how smoothly it hooked me in. I like these characters a lot. I like the twist at the end. I like mix of action and horror along with a bit of humor, and I am definitely looking forward to more.
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Once & Future #1
Duncan McGuire finds out that his grandmother is a lot more than a sweet, independent old lady as he gets dragged into high adventure!