I enjoyed a lot more than I thought I would the first volume of the new Boom Studios’ title Once & Future. The book was about an old woman, Bridgette McGuire, who made her living as a monster hunter and comes out of retirement unexpectedly with her adult grandson Duncan in tow when her ex-husband and daughter (also Duncan’s mother) arranged for King Arthur to return as something of an undead monster.
That’s probably why I so very quickly got to the second trade, subtitled Old English.
If the first volume established Arthur as a villain, a being of legend and his whole personality depends greatly on what legends he may or may not be aware of, then it only makes sense for more figures from Arthurian legend to show up with their own agendas. That would be where Merlin comes in. What does Merlin want? It’s not really clear aside from the fact he doesn’t quite want what Arthur wants. He’s working with Bridgette’s daughter Mary (or Nimue as she prefers) to do…something. The first step there involves bringing in another legendary figure from English history, one that Bridgette doesn’t quite believe in but that Duncan suggests as possible before he even shows up: Beowulf.
Anyone hoping for an Arthur vs Beowulf throwdown will be disappointed. Though the two do not seem to like each other and even start a fight, circumstances intervene to send Beowulf off to attack Duncan and Bridgette instead. And if there’s a Beowulf, then there’s also a Grendel. The problem here is, while Bridgette knows a lot of Arthurian legend, she isn’t so knowledgeable on Beowulf, thinking he was just a bad poem that didn’t even rhyme, so she may be a bit out of her own element here as well, and Duncan, well, he’s still being trained and isn’t really interested in talking to Bridgette at the moment since she kinda kept his destiny from him for the longest time.
There’s a lot to enjoy about Once & Future, including a sly sense of humor (one doomed small town cop is drawn to look like Simon Pegg in Hot Fuzz) along with a bit of family drama as it seems clear Mary isn’t being told things that obviously greatly concern her, and she may still care for Duncan even if she had nothing to do with the lad after he was born. Bridgette herself is not all-knowing, and there’s always a bit of fun to be had with a sweet old lady toting around rifles bigger than she is. The action runs smoothly, and the series acknowledges a lot of the myth and legend of Britain. This is really my cup of tea, and it’s a lot of fun.
And yes, I already have the third volume.
Though it did seem a little odd that Bridgette, who spent a lot of time explaining how stories bring these beings to life, didn’t seem to understand that would also work for Beowulf…
Regardless, 9.5 out of 10 maternal instincts.