Once & Future #5, published by Boom Studios, is written by Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettered by Ed Dukeshire. After the events of the last issue, Duncan McGuire learns a shocking truth about his heritage that connects him to the legend of King Arthur. Armed with this knowledge, Duncan enters into a race against time to find the Holy Grail before Galahad does, especially when his grandmother’s life is at stake.
This is probably the most exposition-heavy issue yet, as several revelations are dropped within the first five pages that not only significantly raise the stakes but also ties together several plot threads from the first four issues. Gillen’s script manages to deliver this exposition without being too heavy-handed and never losing the biting wit of previous issues. He also continues to deliver his own personal spin on the Arthurian legend, this time introducing the Holy Grail and Excalibur into the mix.
Gillen also has the chance to develop Duncan as a character. In previous issues, he’s more or less been flying by the seat of his pants, utterly confused about the insane things he’s witnessed. Now, he takes charge, going off to fight Galahad and retrieve the Grail so that he can save his grandmother. The beauty of indie comics is that creators are allowed to push their characters and the boundaries of the medium in ways that they couldn’t do with more established IP, and Gillen takes full advantage of that.
Similarly, Mora has a chance to stretch even more of his artistic muscles, as his characters’ expressions speak just as loudly as the words that fill their speech bubbles. Duncan is the prime example of this; within 29 pages his expression moves from horror to anger to determination. He is even willing to shoot Galahad in the back; something he previously balked at in the last issue. Galahad’s face is twisted with the madness of a zealot; no matter what Duncan says to him, he is utterly convinced that he’s doing the right thing.
Mora also draws the two characters as a study in contrasts. Duncan is clad in a turtleneck and jeans, has dark red hair and glasses, slouches a bit, and stubble lines his face. Galahad, on the other hand, is clad from head to toe in shining armor, is blonde, handsome, stands upright, and carries a massive broadsword. If I hadn’t read previous issues, I would have thought Galahad was the hero of the story from the way he’s presented. Again, Mora contributes to upending our expectations with the narrative.
Rounding out the creative trio is Bonvillain on colors and this is the creepiest issue she’s done yet. Lakes bubble and boil, the water transforming into a horrendous green sludge. The Holy Grail is overflowing with blood, thick and crimson and spilling down the sides. And an unfortunate knight is ripped apart by dark energy, green lightning flowing out of every pore of his body. Combined with the darkness that seems to permeate every inch of the alternate realm, Bonvillain continues to add to the horror elements of this comic.
Once & Future #5 continues to mix the high adventure of the Indiana Jones movies with a dark take on Arthurian lore and has set the stage for an exhilarating conclusion to its first arc. Considering how amazing this series has been, I expect that it will be nothing less than amazing.
Once & Future #5 is available wherever comics are sold.
Once and Future #5
Once & Future #5 continues to mix the high adventure of the Indiana Jones movies with a dark take on Arthurian lore and has set the stage for an exhilarating conclusion to its first arc.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.