Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist(s): Mark Buckingham, Leialoha and Buckingham (i)
Publisher: DC / Vertigo
Plot: What rules apply in medieval battle, when one of the armies is already dead?
Comments: Here Willingham is indulging in that feudal, Knights of the Round Table or Prince Valiant side of his fable-filled dreamworld. General Hildebrand seems intent on annexing Haven, but that land has a protector in King Ambrose, a mighty wizard to whom sword-battle seems a novel endeavor.
Seeing the young king struggle with rules and powers he doesn’t understand (but which are equally unprepared for him) makes for an adventure-filled tale. Ambrose is extremely powerful, but he defies expectations on both sides of the conflict by refusing to kill. He bargains for a battle between himself and a champion of his enemy’s side, in order to avoid the larger conflict. Not only does he defeat his giant foe, he actually spares him and converts him to his own side.
The annoyed general, apparently not one to honor his word, proceeds to attack, shocked that his agent was defeated at all. But Ambrose has a back-up plan as well, one that rests on the nature of his “undisciplined mob” of an army.
That will wait for next issue, though. This issue, the fun is to be had in the Age of Chivalry visuals of Buckingham and Leialoha, who conjure up convincing suits of armor and a plethora of ghosts, trolls and weaponry. The battle with Grinder the Troll has a big and blocky Kirby-esque feel, and there’s definitely a feeling of arcane ancient systems at work. As someone dipping in without keeping regular track of the series, the issue is confusing in the details but clear and entertaining in the overall plot of a king trying to protect his lands non-violently.
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