As Bridget faces her mortality and the consequences of her decisions, one King Arthur faces another King Arthur. Who is King and who is the pretender to the throne? Find out in Once & Future #20 from BOOM! Studios.

ONCE AND FUTURE #20

Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Dan Mora
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: Ed Dukeshire
Editor: Dafna Pleban
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: September 22, 2021

Previously in Once and Future: The real world and the Otherworld have melded together, at least in England, and everything is a little unearthly. Duncan and Bridget raid the weapons cache – but not without disturbing the local Faeries and getting into a bit of a fight. Arthur makes his way through London, killing people as he goes. He wants his Knights around him. Galahad brings him news that there is a rival King approaching. Bridget and Duncan talk, and we learn that whatever is happening here is probably hidden from the rest of the world, and they are locked in. Bridget considers the survivors from the Home, then invites them to hide out at her house. After all, her house here is the Grail Castle!

REGROUPING IN A TIME OF CHAOS

Last issue set the scene of the new, melded world, and a good thing too as Once and Future #20 opens with a bus careening down a road following a truck carrying a large bell. Duncan is making the bell ring to keep the Faeries away. They pull up in front of the Grail Castle.

North of Reading, a sort of battlefield has sprung up. The resurrected Arthur is on one side with Merlin and Galahad beside him. Across the way is the other Arthur with his Merlin. The first Merlin wonders whether this is a good idea. Arthur insists he is King, and he cannot risk having a pretender loose. They have to know who is truly Arthur, after all. He has confidence, and the land is on his side as he promptly demonstrates by raising an army of undead. The other Arthur has no army, but in this world, what he has may be even better – a hero – Lancelot!

Bridget, Duncan, and Rose lead everyone into the Grail Castle. They will need to map out where things are, and Bridget warns them to try to stay away from the monsters. Duncan wonders whether they are actually safer here. Bridget reminds him that the essence of the Grail Castle is that it is difficult for Arthur to find. Then Rose asks about going out to bring her parents to safety. Bridget says that would be too dangerous and she should not try to be a hero. Rose counters with the argument that not every daughter wishes her mother was dead.

This hits home, and we are reminded of the dysfunction in Duncan’s family. Bridget walks away. When Duncan finds her, she has found a desk full of mementos of her life and her adventures. She had left them behind after Mary left, but after living in the Home, she has come to realize that her memories are what is important about her life. In all her scheming, she had hoped that her family’s life wouldn’t come to this point where Duncan must be Percival. Duncan convinces her to find Rose’s parents with them. Jack is left in charge at the Castle while Rose heads to Bath.

On the battlefield, things are not looking so good for the undead Arthur. This is the reality of stories and legends. Of what use is an army against a veritable hero? Merlin summons the mists and the flee as Galahad muses that Lancelot was supposed to be his father. Lancelot declares victory and dedicates it to a character from legend we have not yet seen – Guinevere!

AN ATMOSPHERE RICH WITH MAGIC

The art of Once and Future #20 captures the magic of the melded world with perfection. Relics of the normal world constantly are juxtaposed against breathtaking settings. It feels like a world where magic runs wild, barely held in check by humans trying to hold onto their place. It is a world where symbolism runs through everything. The battlefield where Arthur faces off against Lancelot shows us this from the start. Where the undead Arthur stands, the ground is dead, overgrown with grasping thorns. Across the way, the other Arthur stands in windswept grass that is green and assertively alive.

The colors of the Otherworld have taken over, so the entire issue is a feast for the eyes. It really shows how much color can affect the tone. The undead Arthur’s palette is very much in the blues and purples with pops of a cool red that direct our eye through the pages. Against all of this, Lancelot is a brighter blue. He and his sword appear to be made of water, and they are unlike any of Arthur’s colors.

BOTTOM LINE: IS HISTORY DOOMED TO REPEAT?

Once and Future takes the legends and keeps giving them delightful twists. Every time a new piece is added to the playing field, its arrival fills us with satisfaction because the set up has been so deft. And all the while, it plays upon themes of family and loyalty and whether or not repeating the past is inevitable.


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Once and Future #20

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Delightful Twists

The residents of Gran’s Home are safe for now, so it is time to find and rescue Rose’s parents.

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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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