‘Once and Future’ #28 by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, Tamra Bonvillain and Ed Dukeshire gives Mary a leading role as she takes control of her own narrative while making use of a previous identity to bring about the endgame of this enthralling fantasy/horror series. What starts off as a quiet, ethereal scene on the banks of a misty, magical lake ends in drama and shocking bloodshed. and more besides.
With only three issue left to go in this fantasy horror series, we begin to see Mary coming forward as one of the driving forces behind the forthcoming climax involving the three Arthurs currently battling it out for supremacy. But, unlike these would-be once and future kings, Mary is no longer trapped in any particular role, as we have seen her in the past. Roles, it is worth mentioning, often assigned to her by men. Indeed, Kieron Gillen allows Mary to make use of these roles to empower herself and begin to set in motions a plan to restore the United Kingdom along with her mother, whom she is slowly begin to bond with once more. Although said mother, Bridgette, is not ready to fly trust her daughter yet.
We move from a misty, evocative opening in which Mary wilfully plays the part of Nimue and calls forth the hoary-looking sisters of the lake so she can wield Excalibur, to the ethereal court of the Celtic King Arthur and beyond as the pace starts to quicken with each turn of the page and Bridgette et.al. plans come into play. And while there is much pace to this issue, there are other moments too, that give the reader pause for thought, No more so than Mary’s exchange with Merlin who seems somewhat adrift of his own part in the legend of King Arthur and how he has also evolved over the centuries. From bard to magician, half-demon, half-human. And everything in between. To learn more about this characters nature and evolution, why not check out my Arthurian Annotations on this very subject here?
Dan Mora continues to astound on the art front. The aforementioned opening pages – all misty fogs and spectral imagery, beautifully enhanced by Tamra Bonvillain’s colours – captures this quieter moment beautifully, while depicting the natural beauty of England as well as the palatial, albeit it destroyed, Houses of Parliament magnificently.
Ed Dukeshire’s carefully considered lettering – assigning various characters their own appropriate font and speech balloon design, also has a big part to play in the whole aesthetic of this book and it’s something I often forget to point out. Whether its the pale speech balloons of the three sisters of the lake, or the green on yellow speech of Arthur, suggesting his decayed state, it all adds to the quality of this series, often hinting at the nature of the character.
And with one more magical trip through the forests of England, that shift our heroes uncomfortably closer to the grand finale, there is still time for one more shocking moment that comes out of nowhere but is a superb embodiment of the fantasy and the horror Gillen, Mora And Bonvillain have been serving up over the run of this series. It will leave readers aghast and wonder what will happen next. And with only two issue left, I’m one of those readers keen to see how this whole saga plays out.
Once and Future #28 is out now from BOOM! Studios