Once & Future #28
Vengeance on the Arthurs proves to be exactly what it takes to bring Mary and Bridgette together, despite years of strife. Will their reunion survive the battles to come? Or is this merely another ploy to split the women apart once more? The main cover connects to the covers for issues #29 and #30, creating an epic piece of artwork celebrating the entire run of this iconic fantasy series!
“We’re not like stories. We’re people. We’re inconsistent.” It’s a curt statement from Gran when discussing Elaine and her possibly in the most recent issue of Once & Future. The line feels like a crystallization of the theme that the series has been grappling with for its span, and with an ending in sight, that motif is hitting harder and clearer. The book’s creative team – writer Kieron Gillen, artist Dan Mora, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, and letterer Ed Dukeshire – has consistently produced amazing work over the course of 27 issues, and issue 28 does not break that trend.
The issue opens with Elaine/Nimue offering Excalibur to the Welsh Arthur, which gives him the advantage in the fight for the sword in the stone. The sequence also divulges the backstory for Merlin, revealing how a nameless bard was able to weave a story so powerful it lived long beyond a dead knight/king. Merlin indicates that he’s more than a mortal man but more complex than a story brought to life, like the Arthurs and other elements of the issue. Nimue then almost kills the Welsh Arthur with Excalibur, ready to exact her revenge for the events of the last issue. She stops herself and chooses to continue the plan Gran has put into motion.
Which is fitting, as, on other fronts, the plan is hit with complications. Gillen knows the perfect place to leave on a cliffhanger, which is set up by a previous issue, but at the moment, feels unexpected. It’s an excellent bit of scripting that indicates the care and thought going into the book’s long game and gives plenty of foreshadowing for the remaining two issues of the series. Like any good story, the twist is organic and consistent with what comes before, proving Gillen’s theme.
Mora gets to cut loose with the vicious carnage and violence that the various story beings can inflict on one another. Mora also gets to illustrate Excalibur (at the least Welsh interpretation, which in some lore is called Caledfwlch) and Fae folk tied to the stories of Nimue/Lady of the Lake. These elements round out Mora’s interpretations of the major elements of Arthurian lore, continuing the trend of giving stunning and original designs for the myths.
It’s not hyperbolic to say these interpretations will stick with an entire generation experiencing the series in the same way as Marvel’s Thor or Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods. That alone would be an accomplishment, but the fact that Mora manages to do so while also giving some of the most bombastic action, expressive faces, and stunning landscapes is mindblowing. It’s a shame that the series is approaching its endpoint, as this book draws something out of Mora’s incredible art that makes it feel apart from his also great art on other titles.
That sense of wonder and elevation comes from the entire creative team giving this book their all, and that’s no more true than in the book’s coloring. The lighting and coloring of this series remain undefeated, revealing breathtaking shots of light casting shadows in gothic buildings, shining stained glass windows, and visceral carnage. Bonvillain rises to match every image Mora puts on the page, their work operating in perfect harmony on the page. Her work is beautiful and mood-setting to a perfect degree. Once the series wraps up, it would be spectacular to see her colors on a series like Daredevil that trades in similar imagery and aesthetics.
Bonvillain also gets the chance to play a different chord in the flashback sequence with Merlin, using a palette lacking in the vibrant blue-greens and color bubbles that the series is known for. Instead, the flashback is colored like a traditional visual representation of historical lore, grounded in more muted browns and grays. It is a subtle distinction that separates the realm of the story from history and is an excellent way to convey the theme Gillen highlights in the issue. At that moment, the coloring is deliberately inconsistent with the style of the book, which is done to great effect.
Once & Future #28 vocalizes a core theme of the book, in which stories are consistent but people are not, and proves it by delivering yet another banger of an issue. Everything from Gillen’s script, to Mora’s pencils, Bonvillain’s colors, and Dukeshire’s letters, remain excellent by playing off what’s been established in the series while still introducing new elements. Everything that happens in this issue feels inevitable, but still comes as a surprise thanks to the excellent meta-framework of the book. Combined with Mora’s stunning designs and Bonvillain’s almost transcendent coloring, in both the story and the breakaway flashback, the book proves just how consistent a story can be.
Once & Future #28: Who Tells Your Story
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
User Review( votes)