2017 is a strange year for many reasons, but one in particular is that pop culture has touched upon the Arthurian legend, whether it’s in summer blockbusters Transformers: The Last Knight and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, or Fox’s upcoming TV police procedural drama Camelot. This ancient tale has also been evoked in the comics scene, including the return of Matt Wagner’s Mage and this Dark Horse title from the creators of IDW’s Amelia Cole series, The Once and Future Queen.
Having failed a chess contest in Cornwall and feeling she has disappointed her parents, Rani Arturus discovers the legendary sword Excalibur, which she pulls from the stone. Under the mentorship of Merlin the Wizard, the newly-crowned Queen Rani must form a new Round Table consisted of friends and family to protect the Earth from an invasion of Fae, who are determined to make our world their own.
The Arthurian legend is a tale that as old as time, and I can appreciate the creators adding a fresh spin here. The carrier of Excalibur is now a female bisexual based in Portland, Oregon, who is trying to balance her social life with friends and family and her new persona of battling monsters from other realms. Writers Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride have plenty of ideas in both character drama and fantasy, from Rani who is wrestling with her friendships which have the potential to be something more romantic, to a recurring character who is a popular young adult author and happens to have a dark, magical agenda.
However, over the course of five issues — and granted, this is a first volume of a series that got cancelled — there is so much groundwork that the ideas are never entirely fleshed out, especially in the initial two issues that establish an awful lot. In terms of characterization, especially in the case of a central love triangle, the writers never go the extra mile in developing these arcs. Runi’s romance with the British comic relief Gwen gets disregarded, for instance ,while Gwen herself seems initially shoehorned into the story and despite mentioning her troubling father, it’s a story that is only lightly explored.
The most positive thing I can say about TOAFQ is the art by Nick Brokenshire, whose blend of black inks and vibrant colors makes him ideal to draw this fantasy adventure that showcases the streets of Portland, Oregon and Cornwall, England, as well as the fantasy surroundings of Fae. When these two worlds collide in the climax, you get pages that are action-packed and bloody.
There are ideas here in terms of character and world-building, but this YA fantasy adventure never takes them to their full potential and due to the cancellation, we are left with a book that feels half-baked.