Plans set in motion years ago are snowballing into action. Can Duncan and Rose keep up with the quest? Find out in this Major Spoilers Review of Once & Future #4 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: November 20, 2019
Previously in Once & Future: Duncan and his Gran, Bridgette, made it to the Otherworld in time to see Elaine cast a spell to raise Arthur (yes, that Arthur). They’re discovered and must flee, but not before Bridgette literally blows things up. Elaine convinces Arthur that they must go after the Grail. Gran, meanwhile, needs a historian to help their cause. Fortunately, Duncan’s date from issue #1, Rose, is a historian, and Bridgette convinces her to come along and help them. Next stop is Bath Abbey, where Elaine reveals that her own son is the Galahad who will find the Grail.
FAST-PACED AND STEEPED IN LORE
It appears to be a peaceful night at Bath Abbey as Once & Future #4 opens. Of course, we know better. But on our side of the portal, Rose is standing vigil with the candle that will lead Duncan and Bridgette home when a couple of police happen by.
Meanwhile, in the Otherworld, Elaine’s Galahad is about to get knighted and the horrified Duncan tells Bridgette she can’t just murder him. Well of course not, not if she doesn’t have a clear shot. Sir Galahad is knighted, and Arthur looks forward to when he can purge the land of Anglos and Saxons. More elements of mythology come into play as Elaine assures Arthur that they have a maimed Fisher King, and the grail is in his castle. Bridgette takes her shot, but Duncan disrupts her. They are found out and must flee again.
They come barreling out the door of Bath Abbey, guns in hand, right into the police who draw their own weapons. Bridgette orders Rose to snuff the candle, but Rose freezes just long enough for Arthur to appear and take out the police. She does come to her senses and put the candle out, which also dismisses Arthur. I really love that Duncan and Rose at this point are still adjusting, in a state of shock, reacting like most normal people would. Bridgette acknowledges this but hustles them into the car so they can rush off to the Grail castle. After Rose gets over her shock, Bridgette tells her she should have, in her information, a contact to call who can clean up the mess at Bath. In a lovely bit of dialogue, Rose objects to being a secretary, and Gran reassures her that she’s more like “M” from James Bond. Rose can live with that.
Now we get deeper into the theme of stories having a life of their own, and people being able to work their way into said stories. Bridgette talks about Elaine “making” a Galahad, by finding a Lancelot to make her pregnant, and raising her son to fit the mold. It’s a fascinating idea, and it speaks this being a game of long-term plans. Somehow Bridgette also knows how to find the Fisher King, but they’re only moments ahead of Galahad.
Duncan kicks in the door and calls out for the Fisher King, who apparently knows Bridgette, who is apparently ready to kill him to cut of the way to the Grail. Then Arthur and Galahad arrive. Rose and Duncan haul Bridgette upstairs even as the Fisher King invites Arthur and Galahad to look around and slip into the Otherworld again. At this point, Gran is set to send Duncan in after them, telling him that this is his quest now.
But Rose has been paying attention and she knows her history and legends. She’s heard what Bridgette has said…and what she hasn’t said. I love that she’s smart, and that this leads into the bombshell that the Fisher King was Bridgette’s husband. He knows full well what’s going on, and he knows something about Duncan, whose middle name just happens to be Percival.
MONSTERS AND THE MONSTROUS
In Once & Future #4, more layers are revealed to us. What started out as a plunge into a crazy adventure keeps getting darker as we see that things have been put into motion years ago. Throughout it all, the art continues to be gorgeous. Well, some of Arthur’s men are pretty ugly in that way the undead have, but you know what I mean. Elaine’s Galahad really does come across as though he’s been preparing for this his whole life. He is blond, handsome, and confident, almost glowing. Duncan, on the other hand, is looking more frazzled and scruffy, right down to the five o’clock shadow.
We move back and forth between the real world and the Otherworld, and I love how the use of color sets them apart from each other. It’s still night; the palettes are dark and heavy in the blue tones, but the Otherworld has broad areas of magenta, as well as the orbs that look like light bouncing off motes of dust. We see this when Arthur comes through to Bath and kills the police. We see the change at the Fisher King’s house when Duncan is looking up the hill toward it. I like that the change happens before Arthur and his knights make an appearance, because it sets off a feeling of dread and anticipation.
BOTTOM LINE: HARSH AT ITS CORE
It helps to have some passing familiarity with Arthurian legend to read Once & Future #4, but I think even if you just know the basics, you know enough to see how that has been twisted in this suspenseful retelling. There’s a little more blood and on-panel violence, but it does fit in with the gripping plot.
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Once & Future #4
What goes around comes around, but not always how you were expecting.