If there is something that I love, it’s a good old fantasy story. I come from a generation that was pretty much raised on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, which ignited a lifelong love for the genre. Mix in some dark horror themes with the fantasy, and you have me hooked. That being said, I think we can all agree fantasy is generally a very formulaic genre. We either have the young female protagonist that’s trying to prove to the world she can do whatever she puts her mind to, or we have the young man who didn’t know what to do with his life / didn’t fit in anywhere until he was thrust into an adventure. It’s a formula that works, even if it’s a little stale. However, something we don’t often see in the world of fantasy is a badass, take no-nonsense female protagonist who also just so happens to be a chain-smoking grandmother. This is precisely what the Once & Future comic brings to the table, a fantasy retelling of an ageless myth that throws caution to the wind and isn’t afraid to turn an entire genre on its head.
Written for Boom! Studios (Alienated; Something is Killing the Children; The Woods) by Kieron Gillen (Die; The Wicked + The Divine; The Ludocrats) and with art by Dan Mora (Batgirl; Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Hexed) comes Once & Future, the story of a retired monster hunter and her oblivious grandson who must go on a journey together to put a stop to none other than Arthur from legend.
Without going too far into spoiler territory, the main gist of Once & Future is that Arthur (as in King Arthur) is back – and he’s in a mood. Bridgette McGuire used to be a monster hunter, and even though those days are long behind her, when she sees signs of Arthurs return, she knows what needs to happen and who to call for help. Bridgette ends up breaking out of the retirement home where she lives and phones up her grandson, Duncan. Duncan thinks he’s being called to give his grandma a ride back to her residence, but before he knows what’s happened, Duncan ends up roped into a world that he never even knew existed and learning about his family’s place within it. All while grandma dearest holds a gun to his head…
There is so much to praise when it comes to Once & Future that it can be hard to know exactly where to start. Dan Mora’s art doesn’t just work to compliment the overall story, instead, it tells it. You could honestly sit and page through Once & Future, only looking at the art and not reading a single word, and you would still have a pretty good idea of the story and an excellent view of every single emotion expressed in it. The colouring by Tamra Bonvillain brings to mind top tier Hollywood movies, and the writing and story are honestly on par with any Dark Fantasy novel you will ever pick up and read. My only real complaint about Once & Future is that I binge read everything over one joyous weekend, and now I’m up to date, and it’s taking long for more issues to drop… (It’s not really, I’m just entitled and impatient, and I need more as in yesterday).
Truthfully, I sat on Once & Future for way too long, and when I did finally give it a try, I was instantly hooked. The story of King Arthur is one that has, quite honestly, been told to death. I don’t even remember a period in my life when I wasn’t aware of some or other retelling of the story. Still, even so, Once & Future manages to take a stale and predictable story and completely turn it on its head. Once & Future tells the story in a way that feels new and like it was always MEANT to be told.
If you’re in the mood for a story that’s equal parts epic and amusing, then Once & Future is not to be missed. Between the written humour and the drawn facial expressions, Once & Future had me in a constant state of giggles while also being so drawn into the story that I couldn’t put it down. Also, and not for nothing, Bridgette looks remarkably like my own grandmother, and I couldn’t help but see her on each and every page… who said grandmas aren’t badass?