Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride
Artist: Nick Brokenshire
Release Date: 12th April 2017
After a strong opening chapter that saw nineteen year-old chess prodigy Rani unwittingly pulling the legendary sword Excalibur from its stone, launching herself headlong into a mystical prophecy (as you do), this latest issue sees Rani and her new friends battling menacing bad guys “the Fey” and setting up their own modern day version of the ‘Round Table’ as the forces of darkness amass against them.
Writer Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride are clearly having an absolute blast here, marrying established fantasy tropes with modern day reality and wrapping the whole up thing in a positive, diverse package. After the initial skirmish at the start of the chapter is resolved, the remainder of this issue is used to flesh things out a little, with Merlin providing some much-needed exposition about the prophecy and the Fey themselves, while the relationships – and possibly even romances – between our reluctant ‘heroes’ are explored in a little more depth.
The series continues to confidently walk the line between dangerous, high-stakes fantasy and upbeat, all-ages humour, delivering the best of both worlds in the process. The dialogue feels realistic, emphasizing the peril while managing to never become too dour or joyless in the process. Gwen in particular delivers some absolute gems of dialogue, with a bawdy sense of humour and a unapologetic directness that really helps offset the shell-shocked reluctance of Rani herself.
Visually, Nick Brokenshire builds on his strong showing in the first issue with another fantastically illustrated chapter here, providing some smoothly flowing action sequences and tossing in a couple of legitimately poster-worthy pages for good measure. This is also a relentlessly colourful book, keeping things lively and energetic throughout without things ever feeling too ‘cartoony’, and my aforementioned excitement about seeing the Scottish artist sink his teeth into the more fantastical aspects of the story seems to have been well founded, particularly during our first glimpse at the ominous ‘King in Shadow’, who looks legitimately unsettling.
Ultimately, while this is clearly something of a transitional and scene-setting issue (as second issues tend to be), the strength of both the characters and the artwork make this is a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish. There’s a lot of exposition here, but it’s clearly exposition that’s going to pay off down the line as the stakes continues to raise, and the innate likeability of our upbeat and diverse protagonists make this an easy title to recommend.
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