“The greatest weapon ever forged wasn’t meant to slay my enemies. It was meant to protect the helpless.”
The Arthurian Legend is one of the most famous and fascinating tales in existence. Countless scribes and creatives have been enchanted by the magical world and strikingly resonant mythic figures that pervade the myth over the years. And every permutation brings about something new, an interesting lens, element or addition that speaks to something unique. Sword of Ages continues the great tradition of exploring the epic legend in grand fashion, casting it and reforging it with clear purpose and a vivid vision.Springing from the minds of Gabriel Rodríguez, Lovern Kindzierski and Robbie Robbins, the five issue series, now collected with great care, is a fantastic display of creative energy. Choosing to re-interpret the myth in a science-fiction fantasy context, Rodríguez brings an impressive perspective to the entire epic. Now, made into an epic space fantasy with star-ships, cyborgs and a balance between magic as well as science, the legend is granted a whole new dimension and texture with which the creative team can mine new story and discover new potential. It’s an inspired choice that moves the entire story from a specific and archaic past to a more timeless science-fiction for the contemporary era of comics, allowing many to experience it in a way they haven’t quite before. All the classic figures are present and familiar in ways we understand, but they’re also re-contextualized and established in a manner that is strikingly new and fresh. For those familiar with the legend, Sword of Ages is a genuinely exciting surprise which twists and plays with familiar context and astonishes with its notions. For those new, it’s a window into a wider world and a classic narrative they’ve yet to experience.
In a fun twist, the protagonist of the saga is Avalon, a young woman, who’s very much the Arthur archetype. Brought to a clan of mountain tigers by the tech-wizard Merlin, she’s raised by these creatures akin to classic characters like Tarzan or Mowgli from The Jungle Book. And this is part of what’s so fascinating about Rodríguez’s approach. He takes these classic and iconic archetypes and plays with them in ways one might not expect and blends intriguing new elements into them, so that they play in a more interesting manner for a contemporary audience. Whether it be Merlin played as almost a Mad Max techno-wizard or a neat new spin on Morgana la Fay as the male antagonist leading the advanced alien empire, all the new takes present exciting new questions, thrilling new backstories while suggesting contexts we have yet to encounter.And that’s the other part of the fun of Sword of Ages — the history, both shown and suggested, which leaps off the pages in every panel. Taking cues from European comics, especially the likes of the legendary Moebius, Rodríguez imbues the book with a unique sensibility and gravitas. The wide-screen storytelling, composition and framing of certain sequences evoke the best of European fantasy works, while also blending perfectly with the more familiar American comics sensibilities. There’s a lovely texture to so much of what’s on the page, but Rodríguez also ensures it’s never too overwhelming and knows when to eliminate the detail or lines to accentuate the clarity of the story being told. With astonishing double-page spreads of impossibly hard perspectives and kinetic motion, Rodríguez thrills the reader throughout, drawing epic battles, eye-popping fantasy creatures and believably human characters. Kindzierski’s colors are a huge component here as well, establishing the appropriate mood and context for every rich vista, setting or moment the book displays. His bright palette which revels in light and the fantastical helps accomplish Rodríguez’s spectacular vision of a wondrous sci-fi fantasy epic.
Robbie Robbins’ letters help tell the story in fun ways here, allowing the book to appropriately world-build as it needs. Carefully navigating between every panel of Rodríguez and Kindzierski’s artwork, Robbins manages to get the placements of all the text just right, enhancing the reader’s experience and leading their eye. Robbins makes a lot of fun choices to help bring clarity to the great wealth of text and speech in the book, which is filled with a massive cast of characters with rich lived in fictional histories. One of the more clever tricks Robbins uses throughout is a differentiation of brackets to indicate the contrast between Templari speech and the Red Clan dialect. The former is more triangular, sharp and efficient, while the latter is blocky and more traditional, which fits those factions and their cultures perfectly. Robbins, in this manner, establishes clear story context which guides the reader along while also fleshing out the world with little touches wherever possible.Sword of Ages is an ambitious new spin on a classic epic for contemporary times. Filled with great high adventure, dynamic action sequences, charming characters and a rich universe, it’s an exciting new beginning of a saga we’re sure to be revisiting soon. Imbued with mighty sigils, clever design-work and a great deal of research, this is a labor of love. With a lovely introduction by Joe Hill and great interviews and insight by Rodríguez himself, this collected edition boasts a great wealth of exciting behind the scenes material and creator perspectives which delight to no end. Grab a copy now and experience the myth.