In a secret London bar where peace is maintained through magical means, heroes and villains gather to enjoy a pint and talk about their day. However, when the magical barriers that disallow fighting are dropped, Knight and Squire have to keep the peace in a building full of heroes and villains confronting each other all at once.
I should loveKnight and Squire. I’ve enjoyed the modernized version of the characters. I like other books by Paul Cornell that I’ve read. Heck, DC even priced the book at $2.99, which also served as an incentive for me to buy this book. However, I really can’t say that I thought this first issue was any good.
For one thing, the art by Jimmy Broxton doesn’t seem like it’s ready for primetime. I realize the following is horribly vague, and probably only a good description for a few people, but the art in this issue looks like the kind turned in by a fill-in artist in the 90s when it was clear the book was behind schedule and the editor just needed someone to get an issue out quickly. The storytelling itself is adequate enough, but it’s not dynamic–something particularly evident in the two-page spread.
My disappointment with this issue also stems from that fact that nothing really happens. While the set up in the pub is interesting, it’s not interesting enough to support an entire issue. We get pages and pages of characters who aren’t particularly interesting, which means the climax isn’t particularly exciting.
In the end, though, the main reason this book is disappointing is that it has absolutely nothing to do with Knight and Squire. In fact, you could remove them from this book and very little would change. Now, had this book been called Time in a Bottle or British Super People Having Drinks, then this wouldn’t be a problem, but I doubt I would have bought it.
This first issue isn’t a Knight and Squire story and, given that it’s the title of the book, that aspect is pretty disappointing. Considering how much potential these two characters have, it’s even more disappointing.
Really, Knight and Squire #1 would probably have worked better as the last issue of this series, but it certainly doesn’t work as the first. As it now stands, the next issue is going to get the flip test at the store from me before I decide to buy it.
Knight & Squire sees Paul Cornell bring his British sensibilities to the DC universe, applying the same knack for wit and character comedy that we saw in the pages of Marvel’s Captain Britain & MI-13 to the Batman and Robin of the British Isles, the Knight and the Squire.
However, whilst the laughs-per page ratio is up there with Cornell’s work on Captain Britain, the tone is somewhat different. In contrast to that somewhat serious series, an atmosphere of knockabout comedy permeates this issue with bawdy jokes manifesting through a steady stream of double entendres, outrageous character concepts courtesy of Cornell’s inventive imagination, and a chaotic slapstick action sequence that closes the issue.
Cornell certainly doesn’t shy away from the Britishness of the book as he risks confusing his American audience by packing Cockney rhyming slang and British references into the script from the very first page. As a British reader, I think I got most of them–but for those who feel overwhelmed by the indecipherable British double-speak, a glossary at the back of the issue explains some of the references (although not all of them–the ruder ones will have to be researched separately for those who really want to know). There’s also a welcome avoidance of the usual British clichés–that is, if you don’t count the appearance of Big Ben on the issue’s cover.
However, to tar Knight & Squire with the brush of merely being DC’s “British book” is to do it a disservice. The story itself is a lot of fun regardless of the British trappings: a monthly pub meeting of superheroes and villains goes awry after the removal of a magical curse that prevents violence in the drinking establishment.
It might sound like a slightly thin and silly premise, but Cornell manages to bring it to life through the details–most notably the wealth of different character concepts he comes up with over the course of the issue. On the strength of this book, I think I’d be happy to read an entire issue of character profiles if it was written by Cornell, as this issue sees such luminaries as Jarvis Poker (the British Joker) and The Milkman rubbing shoulders with the likes of The First Eleven, Captain Cornwall, and The Dark Druid (to name but a few).
After a few years in which Grant Morrison has gone to great lengths to freshen up Batman’s rogues’ gallery with some new faces, it’s great to see someone matching his creative spirit. Any one of these characters could feature in a complete story in his or her own right, and I can’t wait to see whether Cornell plans to reuse any of these characters in future issues.
However, if I have any criticism of the book it’s that we spend so much time exploring these secondary characters that we don’t really get to know the titular superheroes themselves (aside from an interesting bit of background on the Squire’s powers of communication). Hopefully this lack is something that’ll be remedied in future issues.
As for the art, Jimmy Broxton copes with such a demanding script admirably–coming up with visual interpretations of these countless character concepts that all feel distinctive and different whilst simultaneously feeling as though they could all inhabit the same world. His costume designs reflect the entire gamut of superhero fashion, from ancient pulp-y figures to Silver Age gaudiness to gargantuan 1990s-esque monstrosities, all the way through to the slick minimalism of the new pretenders to the superhero throne that have debuted more recently.
An issue like this would be a challenge for any artist on the basis of the character designs alone, but Broxton also manages to create a real sense of energy and dynamism throughout the issue–which is no mean feat considering that much of the story consists of talking heads and character descriptions.
If I had to sum this book up in a single sentence, I’d say it was like a Silver Age Batman book filtered through the sensibilities of the Carry On movies, Monty Python, Morecombe and Wise and The Two Ronnies. That might not make it everybody’s cup of tea–especially if you like your superheroes to always be resolutely grim and serious–but I found it to be a charming approach that indicates hitherto untapped depths of creativity from Cornell, and one that provides a great showcase for Broxton’s artistic talents.