Once & Future is the kind of fantasy book which hooks you with the first issue and keeps finding ways from there to keep you coming back for more. I mean, I had it in my head that it would take some time before Gran and Duncan ran into Arthur, and here we were at issue #2 where they were already facing down a reanimated once-king, and his undead army. That is moving pretty fast, and you can’t argue with the clear boldness that is working. Regardless, how awesome is it to jump into a book where Arthur is not the kind and noble king that all the stories say he is?
How we jumped back into that madness was a thrill because once more we were seeing just what kind of person Gran was back in the day. Personally I’ve always loved these kinds of stories. When you have an older person like Gran, its fun for the fact that the person tends to be filled with so much vigor despite being trapped in a now frail body. So in that moment, it was exciting to see Gran show what she can do with some of the things she brought along with her. At the same time I couldn’t help smiling at Duncan who you can see is slowly pulled into this world. He might be able to make sense of it, but you can see that with very little choice he can get into it. Even if he doesn’t know what he is doing either.
What came next was a surprise because again, at this point in the story you would have expected certain things from this story. Most creative teams try to take their time throwing us into a world like this. Though that’s not this creative team. They wanted us to jump right into it and figure things out on the way. Like I said above, it works. Particularly when you have such fast pacing and excellent execution in key moments.
Now there’s one thing I have come to appreciate more than anything else in Once & Future, and that just so happens to be the focus on stories and how no two stories are the same. Most of us grow up knowing one history, story, or myth of King Arthur. However, through our journey with Gran we come to learn that it matters to know all the big distinctions between them. The time that the story was told, the place of origin, even the way that it is told. All of those things have a huge impact in grasping what was unfolding. I would say that most of us could relate to Duncan because it is very easy to see these things through the lens of the TV and movies we digest. For example, if I were referencing to King Arthur, then I would think of that Merlin series from BBC. I wouldn’t be wrong, but in the context of this situation it wouldn’t help. Having a book like this which makes you think doesn’t hurt one bit.
Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain continue to knock it out of the park with this book. Right now it wouldn’t matter if the story wasn’t up to par, you would always know that with an all-star art team like this you are never going to be disappointed by the visuals. Fortunate for us as well that both the story and art are outstanding. Seeing Mora draw more original characters is refreshing because you get to see him stretch his legs a bit more with the way that these characters express themselves and spring into action. I’ve never see him draw an older character like Gran who is so active, and he does it very well. And of course this includes the series of expressions that she is able to cycle through to adapt to different situations. Aside form that, I enjoyed the chill I got from the way that Arthur is drawn. They could have easily made him mostly flesh, but they struck a great balance between skeleton and exposing real insides. Bonvillain’s colors were perfect for this issue too because those greens and pinks mixed very well to set that supernatural atmosphere. Between that and the way that the excellent use of lighting for most of these scenes which take place under the cover of night. I also never got to mention it before, but the lettering is also standout. With a fantasy book, you expect that some characters will have a more distinct voice, and Ed Dukeshire captured that well through the greens used for the text and word bubble itself.
They found one heck of a way to throw us into the thick of this battle to keep the sword from the stone out of the hands of Arthur. Once & Future #3 was engaging, entertaining, action-packed, and even enlightening. I’d call it the full package among fantasy series currently on shelves. Right now this is not the book to overlook from BOOM! Studios.