The story of Beowulf has settled down, but that’s hardly the end of Arthur’s plotting. What new trouble is Duncan going to face? Find out in Once & Future #13 from BOOM! Studios.

ONCE & FUTURE #13

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 18, 2020

Previously in Once & Future: The undead King Arthur bides his time as Merlin has returned to advise him. Merlin’s present plot involves catching – and using – a feral Beowulf story to set first Beowulf and then Grendel loose in England, plaguing Duncan and his grandmother Bridgette. After they’re dispatched, Grendel’s mother attacks. Elaine has been helping Merlin, but now she steps up to (ostensibly) help Duncan by setting him up as the new Beowulf. This works to take care of the present problem, but in a world where stories have literal power, what does this mean for Duncan?

A QUIET BREATH AND A BEGINNING

Once & Future #13 opens a new story arc, and this is a terrific spot to jump in if you’re new to this book. And it opens quietly enough. Bridgette is sitting on the deck enjoying a smoke when a magpie lands near her. And another one; and then another. There are rhymes about birds like this, rhymes that give meaning depending on the number of birds there are. Six of them show up, which could mean “gold,” or “hell,” depending on the rhyme. The colors shift to show the presence of magic, and one of the birds croaks, “hell.” Bridgette shoots four of them, bringing them down to two (meaning “joy,” or “mirth.”) One of the remaining birds kills the other, bringing the count down to “sorrow” before Bridgette kills it. What a brilliant opening!

Bridgette calls Duncan to let him know trouble is on the way. She has a knack for calling when he and Rose have a date planned. Rose casts her pins, and they show no immediate problem in the area. Duncan has been trying to keep his relationship secret, but when they both show up to see Bridgette, she figures it out at once. The dialogue is clever and I enjoyed the point where Rose accuses her of being a Miss Marple and Bridgette denies it because Miss Marple didn’t know anything about explosives.

Duncan and Bridgette are on somewhat more comfortable terms again, and the humor in their characters shines. I also enjoy their familiarity with stories and legends, which of course turns out to be key to their trade of hunting down mystical trouble. Speaking of which, Elaine and Arthur still have a plot and the only loose ends Bridgette has puzzled out are to find the man who was Elaine’s Lancelot, or to track down where she found the Nazis who helped her raise Arthur back in the first place back in issue #1.

As it happens, Rose got a hit this morning when she cast her pins – a pub in the middle of nowhere called The Lancelot Arms. Rose has been in the background for a while. Despite the dangers, she is getting herself more actively involved and I like seeing this. Besides, Duncan still doesn’t have a car and she has to drive.

The three of them go to the pub, where Bridgette shows the bartender a photo of Elaine. He recognizes her immediately and the next thing we see is a handful of Nazis wondering what Elaine did with their friends, who have never returned. They put a guy on the door to keep other people out, and in short order a fight ensues, for which Duncan is enormously outmatched. And then someone new steps into the picture. (I “squeed” at this point!)

RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR

Once & Future #13 has one of the prettiest openings I’ve seen. Bridgette is alone on the deck behind the home, a lovely spot with the English countryside off in the distance and a huge blue sky with a touch of clouds. The white flash of the first magpie catches our eye and, as it lands, pulls us into the moment. When the six magpies line up, it feels a little freaky. When we see their background change to pink, not to mention the chartreuse of magic around their beaks, we have been primed to realize this is unquestionably magic. The consistency of that presentation all along sells this moment beautifully.

The art transitions effortlessly between the normal and the magical. Another charming sequence is when Bridgette is checking in with Duncan. She says, like many a grandmother might, that he’s looking a bit tired. This is followed by a succinct three panels clearly showing monster encounters – all the information we need to know that Duncan has been very busy between books. While Bridgette sympathizes with the work she knows he must do, we also see a lovely romantic scene as he remembers one of his times with Rose. This also has somewhat magical colors, but not in the scary way. I like the way these balance each other out.

BOTTOM LINE: A NEW PROBLEM STEPS UP

Once & Future #13 is a blend of joy and the macabre. It draws on source material that is rich with legends that are familiar, but which have room for vibrant reinterpretation. The characters are smart and complicated which brings a lot to the table. Never has a horror book been so fun.


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Once and Future #13

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A Blend of Joy and the Macabre

The calm before the storm is short-lived as a new story leaks into the world.

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By day, she’s a mild-mannered bureaucrat and Ms. Know-It-All. By night, she’s a dance teacher and RPG player (although admittedly not on the same nights). On the weekends, she may be found judging Magic, playing Guild Wars 2 (badly), or following other creative pursuits. Holy Lack of Copious Free Time, Batman! While she’s always wished she had teleportation as her superpower, she suspects that super-speed would be much more practical because then she’d have time to finish up those steampunk costumes she’s also working on.

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