By Clyde Hall. “For it is the doom of men that they forget,” warns Merlin in the movie Excalibur, as he ironically constructs a legend that endures despite humanity’s season tickets in Short Attention Span Theater. The adventures of King Arthur and his knights are still being re-imagined through film, stage, and print, the latter often presented through a genre-altered lens. Camelot 3000 by Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland broke new comic book ground (maxi-series, Baxter paper, direct marketing) with a science fiction version in 1982. Writer and illustrator Gabriel Rodríguez now goes to the Arthurian well for his space fantasy Sword of Ages #1. But he certainly isn’t using the same bucket, and he’s dug deeper to tap his own creative artesian spring.
His series launch is gorgeously drawn with meticulous detail, and with equal care regarding layout, panel placement, and focus to convey a subtext beyond his script and dialogue. Not that those are lacking. Here there be dragons. And starships, and menacing giant space jellyfish, and biker wizards, and talking gorillas. It’s an irresistible geekucopia, served up with drool-worthy graphics.
While his story might stand on its own sci-fi merits, making it a space-borne Arthurian vehicle adds depth to the fun. As viewers of the first Battlestar Galactica TV series pondered whether character names like Adam/Adama, Apollo, and Athena begat Earth tales based on the arrival of these brethren from beyond the stars, we ponder the role Avalon/Arthur, Lancer/Lancelot, and Isolt/Isolde might have formulating the more familiar tales of Camelot. Will their portrayal parallel or conflict with traditional telling? Since the nature of all Arthurian characters tends to vary depending on the saga, it doesn’t much limit any namesakes here. But it’s a good way to hasten reader investment in what fates await.
Given the speaking, intelligent, animals in Sword, there’s a certain inherent Kamandi appeal. Thanks to an encounter between the heroine and a slavers group, there’s also a Planet of the Apes appeal. Both of which could be easily overplayed; a heavy-handed writer would quickly turn homage to mockery. But just as he’s subtle with layouts, Rodríguez is equally skilled using these elements to grant his original story a comforting familiarity. We know these legends, Round Table et al. — just not this way. We’re left eager to know more, and already lamenting that a mere four issues remain for Rodríguez to finish weaving his Merlin spell of remembrance.
Written by Gabriel Rodríguez.
Art by Gabriel Rodríguez.
Colors by Lovern Kindzierski.
Letters by Robbie Robbins.
8.5 out of 10
Enjoy this five-page preview of ‘Sword of Ages’, courtesy of IDW Publishing!