Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride
Artist: Nick Brokenshire
Release Date: 1st November 2017
After the original series was unceremoniously cut short after just two issues, The Once And Future Queen – the latest offering from the Amelia Cole creative triumvirate of Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride and Nick Brokenshire – finally gets a well-deserved trade paperback release this week, rounding out the first (and possibly only) arc of the series.
For those of you who may have missed my reviews of the first two issues, here’s a quick recap of the story: Rani, a nineteen-year-old chess prodigy from Portland, unwittingly pulls the legendary sword Excalibur from the stone during a trip to England, opening a rift between her own world and the dark world of the Fae – a rift that only she can close. Along the way, Rani is joined by some companions – a modern-day ’round table’, if you like – including tough-as-nails Gwen, soft-spoken-but-virtuous Lance and the space suit wearing ghost of Merlin (don’t ask) – as the quartet do their best to turn back the forces of darkness once and for all.
It’s enjoyable, all-ages fantasy fun for the most part, with exciting prophesies and engaging characters aplenty, and a story that mixes humour, romance and adventure. It also provides an interesting twist on the Arthurian legends of old, and while the similarities are only fleeting for the most part, it does give the story a feeling of legitimacy rather than simply being ‘just another all-ages fantasy series’.
The real strength of the series however comes from the characters themselves, and while the impending threat of the Fae does serve as the driving force behind the story, Knave and Kirbride’s writing at times feels a lot more focused on the complicated romantic relationship between Rani, Gwen and Lance. Boasting a refreshingly diverse approach to relationships, the way our trio come together and gradually figure things out for themselves makes for a thoroughly interesting read, blending polygamy, asexuality and bisexuality into a wonderfully diverse melting pot.
That’s not to say that this is strictly a quote-unquote “romance book” by any means, with artist Nick Brokenshire bring the frequent action-filled portions of the story with his trademark flair. His character designs for the Fae are suitably creepy, with the ‘King in Shadow’ serving as a real high point, and the combat is fluid, dynamic and – on more than one occasion – a little more violent that I was expecting. His colours also really help the pages to pop, with a bright palette that stops just short of becoming garish or overly cartoony.
The ending of the five-issue arc is a little disappointing, if only because it leaves things so open-ended, making it feel more like an opening chapter of a larger story than an actual conclusion. And, given the abrupt cancellation of the series initially, it’s unlikely that we’re going to be getting any more Once And Future Queen anytime soon, which is a real shame.
Ultimately though, with a diverse and upbeat approach to the world of fantasy adventure, The Once And Future Queen is well worth a look, particularly for teenage readers with an interest in swords, sorcery and monsters. Knave, Kirkbride and Brokenshire should be truly proud of what they’ve created here, and hopefully the trade paperback release will help expose this exciting series to a whole new audience.
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