The latest Black Knight is poised to hit the big screen in The Eternals… but what about the original? Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Black Knight #1 awaits!
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Joe Maneely
Inker: Joe Maneely
Editor: Stan Lee
Publisher: Atlas Comics (Marvel Comics)
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $1,400.00
Previously in Black Knight: Out of the legends of King Arthur and the valiant knights of the Round Table… Out of the colorful days of old, when knighthood was in flower… The romance, glamor and high adventure of The Crusades, and now those legends are joined by The Black Knight! This issue begins with explanations of Arthurian lore, explaining who Sir Lancelot, Merlin, Sir Galahad and Modred are before introducing the foppish Sir Percy of Scandia, who has come to Camelot for asylum after being overwhelmed by The Baron of Emsore, a known weakling. When Merlin escorts Sir Percy to his new quarters, the truth comes out.
Sir Percival is, in fact, the Black Knight, a powerful warrior who hides his heroism, Scarlet Pimpernel-style, behind the facade of a mawkish weakling in order to ferret out a traitor in the royal ranks. Merlin suspects Modred, a hunch which proves true, but also serves to show us the true skill of The Black Knight.
This issue’s art is by the late Joe Maneely, an artist whose eye for detail and precise linework make everything he drew utterly gorgeous. The battle sequences in this issue aren’t even the best part of it, as even moments of palace intrigue have incredible life and vibrancy, with vivid facial expressions and body language and incredible detail. Percy’s Clark Kenting even has a Lois Lane in Lady Rosamund, who wonders who could be hiding under the eagle helm. As for King Arthur, he too finds the legendary knight’s skills to be impressive, especially when Modred’s men again try for an ambush.
Arthur watches as The Black Knight easily fends off Modred’s blows, refusing to take off his helmet. Arthur agrees to let the mystery man join his round table, which proves helpful when the King is kidnapped a few days later.
In the absence of the King, Modred takes the throne and locks Guenivere away to keep her from taking away his newfound powers. He cannot, however, lock away the mystery knight, who fights his way into the hidden brig where Modred has stashed Arthur Pendragon, fighting his way in and battling rogue knights all the way back up from the dungeons, foiling Modred’s murderous plans.
Here’s what you need to know about this issue: Stan Lee is a good plotter, a fine dialoguer, and crafts some cool story. That said, Black Knight #1 could have been scribbled on a napkin by a drunken Bret Easton Ellis from notes provided by Andrew Dice Clay, and Maneely’s art would make it worth the price of admission, leaving this unsung gem of the Atomic Age of comics with 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. Sadly, Joe Maneely died in a tragic accident in 1958. Stan Lee himself believed that Maneely could have been as big an influence on comics as Kirby himself, and it’s easy to see that in his work. Trust me, if a comic says Maneely, it’s worth your time.
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BLACK KNIGHT #1
If you read only one swords-and-sorcery comic from the 1950s, this should be the one you choose. Maneely's art is incredible and it even has ties to modern continuity, if that's something you worry about.