Review – Once & Future #25 (BOOM! Studios)

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Dan Mora
Colours: Tamra Bonvillain
Lettering: Ed Dukeshire
Release Date: 4th May 2020

For those who have somehow let this series slip under their radar to this point, Once & Future follows Duncan, an academic who discovers his gran Bridgette is secretly a monster hunter, and who becomes drawn into a shadowy world of peril and drama where stories are real and want nothing more than to bleed into the real world and wreak havoc.

Over the course of the first twenty-four issues, we’ve gone from Arthur and Merlin to Grendel and Beowulf to other Arthurs and Merlins with a lot of crazy stops in between. Now, in this latest arc, we have none other than Robin Hood himself entering the fray, and pretty much every page of this latest issue is getting me more and more excited about what’s to come.

Honestly, I love basically everything about this series, so there’s a very real chance that this ends up as less of a review than a gushing recommendation. I’ll try and do my best to keep the hyperbole in check, though…

What I particularly love are all the different levels this series works on.  On the surface it’s a bawdy action adventure story packed with explosions, one-liners and lashings of distinctly British humour, but scratch that surface just a little and you have Kieron Gillen’s trademark geeky intellect fuelling a brilliantly interconnected web of literary references and characters both obvious and obscure. And what’s more, you can dig into these references as little or as much as you like and still have a rollicking time reading it, which for me is the mark of a truly well-constructed comic.

Another thing that really helps this series hit the target as well as it does is the fantastic character and art design from Dan Mora and Tamra Bonvillain, who combine to bring this ever-expanding cast of characters and monstrosities to the page with a real flair. I mean, just a quick glimpse at the preview art below and their distinctive take on Robin’s “Merry Men” should let you know exactly what to expect.

The characters are all expressive without becoming too cartoony, Mora’s linework is as impeccably detailed as always, and Bonvillain’s stylish colour work – including the sparkles of multicoloured light which coincide with the appearance of a story or one of its characters – really helps to sell the distinctive narrative style of the story. Everything looks and feels the part, the action is suitably chunky and chaotic, and the duo help to hit the sweet spot between drama and humour time and time again.

The final pages herald the return of a foe that may have been forgotten by some, as well as cementing the particular story – or poem, in this case – that is likely to provide the narrative thrust for this latest arc.  It’s all great stuff, and knowing what little I do about the aforementioned poem, it’s going to be fascinating to see how Gillen and co. let it play out on the page in the weeks and months to come.

For me – and here’s some of the hyperbole I’ve been trying so hard to suppress to this point – every arc of this series goes further and further towards cementing its masterpiece status. Blending popcorn action with incisive literary acrobatics, Once & Future is like absolutely nothing else on the shelves today, and gets my highest possible recommendation.

Rating: 5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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You can follow Ceej on Twitter

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