The Once and Future Queen Vol. 1 

Written by D.J. Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave
Illustrated by Nick Brokenshire
Letters and Logo Design by Frank Cvetkovic
Published by Dark Horse

After wrapping up the ongoing Amelia Cole series, the creative team of D.J. Kirkbride, Adam P. Knave and Nick Brokenshire are back for a new ongoing bearing a passing resemblance to the aforementioned comic book. The Once and Future Queen Vol. 1 tells the story of Rani, a Portland native who travels to England for a chess match and becomes embroiled in an adventure. The tale is a loose re-telling of the King Arthur legend starring a young girl as the lead. The creators certainly have a lot to say about the original story, making sure to subvert expectations every step of the way. The series begins conventionally enough with Rani Arturus quickly becoming enveloped in the supernatural aspects of the comic. Knave and Kirkbride quickly bring in the rest of the cast and the title features a strong focus on the family all the way throughout this debut volume. While some of the fantasy tropes in this comic can start to feel a bit tired, the innovative art of Brokenshire really elevates the story into a league of its own. The creator has shown a great sense of improvement over the original comic. The coloring, in particular, makes the strong linework from Brokenshire stand better than ever before. The creator’s layouts and experimentation with the form is another aspect of this title that shows a strong sense of progression.

Knave and Kirkbride spend a lot of time in this volume quickly establishing Rani’s world. The first issue of the title, in particular, has a strong energy and introduces a level of playfulness that the book carries over the first arc. The most interesting aspect of the series is the sexual elements of the story that adds a surprising twist to the title. The writers convey a complex relationship without feeding into tropes or cliches that readers have seen before. In future installments of the comic book, the creators have lots of room to grow out that side of the title and start showing readers a different type of relationship that should be more strongly represented in 2017 in comics and beyond.

Once the book gets rolling and readers have a stronger idea of who each character is, the comic gains a stronger sense of pace. The villains exude a great screen presence that has some of the strongest work from Brokenshire. Sparse coloring and ominous dialogue and caption boxes make these moments some of the best in the book. The different locations in the narrative are nicely matched with the unique sense of coloring as well. With so many threads left up in the air towards the end of the first volume and no big cliffhanger to leave readers with, the volume ending seems rushed.

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The Once and Future Queen Vol. 1 shows a strong sense of maturity from the creative team and builds on many of the elements from Amelia Cole to establish stronger defined more engaging series. Older fans will also be shocked by the rapid progression in quality of Brokenshire’s art. The Once and Future Queen Vol. 1 is an engaging, subtle first step into a promising new title.

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