Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Mirko Colak
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Release Date: July 5th 2017
Acclaimed horror writer Cullen Bunn is fixing to put his own stamp on the well-known Arthurian legends alongside artist Mirko Colak in Unholy Grail, a brand-new AfterShock Comics series on sale this July.
Right from the get-go, it’s obvious that this isn’t going to be the same upbeat tale of chivalry and heroism that we may be familiar with. Instead, Bunn, whose horror credentials pretty much speak for themselves, adopts a darker, bleaker, almost Lovecraftian tone as he weaves his sordid tale of a demon in the guise of Merlin coercing Arthur into committing atrocities in his quest to become King following the death of his father, Uther Pendragon.
The opening issue flicks back and forth between Merlin’s twisted genesis and the story of Sir Percival who, upon returning home from his quest to obtain the Holy Grail, finds Camelot in ruins and littered with the corpses of his former countrymen. The shifting time periods do become a little disorienting at times, but Bunn’s eloquent narration keeps us on the right path for the most part as the story twists and turns.
Mirko Colak’s artwork is impressive in its understated beauty, from the rolling green fields of Albion to the corpse-strewn battlegrounds of Camelot. There’s more than a hint of RM Guera in Colak’s work, particularly during the scenes which bring to the light the more demonic aspects of this re-imagined story, and a there’s also a pervasive sense of horror that practically seeps through the pages as the issue gradually unfolds.
It’s an admittedly slow-paced opening issue, but Bunn’s trademark flair keeps the pages turning, drawing us deeper and deeper into his bleak subversion of this established legend as we track back from the fall of Camelot to the events which led up to its eventual demise. It’s going to be interesting to see how the story unfolds and whether Arthur – who seems almost like a mindless puppet to this point, depositing an endless array of swords from his conquered rivals as ‘offerings’ to the Lady of the Lake – is going to provide any sort of resistance to his demonic puppet master. It has the potential to become a fairly joyless slog if not, but my faith in Bunn as a writer ensures that I’ll definitely still be picking up the subsequent issues in order to find out.
The legend of King Arthur is a story that has been told to death over the years, but in the hands of Bunn and Colak, Unholy Grail manages to stand out from the pack with its troubling, horrific re-imagining of this usually heroic and virtuous tale. An encouraging start then to what should be yet another impressive new series from AfterShock Comics.
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