Monday, April 17, 2017

Review - Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1 (@ValiantComics)


"King Arthur lay at Camelot upon a Christmas-tide..."

Back in the day, Marvel was always a big fan of the "What if" scenarios where they would take characters out of their element and put them in strange--but intriguing--situations. Those stories always stretched the imagination of the reader as it allowed the norm to be subverted in the name of the abstract. Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1 from Valiant Comics is a worthy mention in that category of what if. The issue is written by Fred Van Lente, illustrated by Cary Nord with Clayton Henry, inked by Mark Morales and colored by Brian Reber.

It's winter at King Arthur's court in Camelot, when the monstrous Green Knight appears at the Round Table wearing no armor and bearing a gigantic axe. Eager for a challenge suitable for the weaker knights, he insists that they participate in a friendly "winter's game". Anyone can strike him once with his axe, but on the condition that the Green Knight may return the exact blow in one year's time. Arthur agrees to the game, but the youthful knight, Gilad, takes up the challenge to protect his king. Much to the court's surprise, the Knight doesn't move as Gilad strikes his head off. The Green Knight picks up his own head and gives Gilad his own mighty axe, telling him he is fated to receive the same blow before the year is out. Now, Sir Gilad must solve the mystery of who the Green Knight is before his hour at the axe comes to pass! But first, he'll need to find some help...in the form of his immortal brothers, who will be united once again!

Van Lente is a very sound writer in general, but his approach to the Valiant Universe is even more phenomenal. In that sense, his blending of Valiant characters with an Arthurian legend is done extremely well as he manages to find the right character for the right role to make the story tick. There's no shortage of dialogue spoken by the characters that still makes them feel familiar to longtime readers of Valiant titles. Gilad is one of the universe's more powerful characters and Van Lente funnels the entirety of the narrative through him. And Van Lente's decision to pitch that narrative through the lens of Archer telling Faith a bedtime story is even more appropriate since it frames the one-shot as something of a fairy tale of sorts.

The artwork is handled by both Nord and Henry and their talents go to great use here. Nord's rendering of the Faith/Archer storytelling is concise, cleanly depicting Archer working to nurse Faith back to health (she's only fighting a cold). Henry handles the King Arthur duties and illustrates all the Valiant characters in a way that does enough to indicate who they are but also in a way that allows them to fit into the different era visually. There are some panels that feel a little disturbing; mainly there's one of all the knights seated around the table from a distance that Henry illustrates without any facial details. Morales and Reber come together on inks and colors in a way that casts a sense of doom over the entire issue even if that sense of dread is undercut by the more lively colors of the characters involved.

Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1 is pretty much a treat to read. Archer, Armstrong, Gilad and all the other characters fit into the old poem perfectly, blending together their more modern-day personalities with the older sensibilities. Van Lente writes the script in a way that's really enjoyable and very accessible to all readers (although knowing more about the personalities of the characters certainly helps overall enjoyment). Nord and Henry do a great job on the artwork as they thrust the characters into roles that come with preconceived notions visually. Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1 is definitely worth picking up regardless of your experience with the Valiant universe only because it's just plain fun.

Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1 is available now.

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