Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Dan Mora
Colours: Tamra Bonvillain
Lettering: Ed Dukeshire
Release Date: 14th August 2019
If you’re compiling a list of comic book writers whose name on the cover can be taken as an absolute guarantee of some quality storytelling, Keiron Gillen has to be right near the top. And the idea of pairing him with the striking visual stylings of BOOM! Studios stalwart Dan Mora and colourist extraordinaire Tamra Bonvillain only cements the ‘can’t miss’ credentials of new fantasy series Once And Future, on sale today.
This new series, set in modern day England, introduces us to Duncan McGuire, a clumsy, well-meaning and fairly likeable academic and his aging grandmother Bridgette, who harbours a fairly unexpected secret. When the excavation of a mysterious fifth century scabbard leads to bloodshed, Bridgette decides to let her grandson in on the shocking realities of the world, and of the Arthurian prophecy that promises to bring England to its knees.
Taken in isolation, the credentials of this particular creative team are pretty much unquestioned, but bringing them together here results in something rather special. While DIE, Gillen’s Image Comics series with Stephanie Hans, serves as a measured deconstruction of the fantasy genre as a whole, Once And Future leans right into these established tropes, creating a sparkling first issue that feels by turns light-hearted and serious, intimate and epic, and which had me absolutely hooked from the first few pages onwards.
Mora and Bonvillain work together beautifully to deliver a striking aesthetic, with Mora’s typically expressive characters and slightly exaggerated facial expressions working well to hit the beats of the story without things ever feeling too cartoony. Similarly, Bonvillain’s work is all about restraint, with a palette that keeps things lively without them ever becoming too garish.
The tone of both the writing and the artwork ensure that this first issue delivers humour without ever poking fun at its premise. The dialogue sizzles with humorous asides and neatly delivered exposition, but there’s never a feeling that the threat is anything less than severe, or that the creators are delivering their story with tongue planted firmly in their collective cheeks.
The final pages open up the real scale of the threat, making the purchase of the second issue an absolute certainty for anyone who picked up the first (a fairly sizeable group, if the fact that it’s already in its fourth printing prior to release is anything to go by).
Honestly, this is a fantastic start. Gillen’s confident structure and snappy dialogue paired with Mora and Bonvillain’s lively, expressive visuals make this a book that you simply cannot afford to miss. Mixing chuckle-worthy humour and earnest, high-concept fantasy into a heady potion and pouring it right into the modern world, Once And Future is a new series that comes highly recommended.