Indie Comics Spotlight – Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1, Plague #1, and The Greatest Adventure #1


By: Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)

Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight #1

“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.

Both Nord and Henry handle the artwork 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.

Plague #1

“This valley smells of…death.”

In the history of the world, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pandemic as devastating as that of the Black Plague (unless you’re playing the game Pandemic and are wiped out around the fourth turn). The disease destroyed families and debilitated countries/kingdoms, paying no attention to the affected. Markosia posits that the plague would have even affected fairies in The Plague #1. The issue is written by Dennis Magee Fallon and Jason Palmatier, illustrated by Zach Brunner, and lettered by Dave Sharpe.

In 1352, the Bubonic Plague is ravaging Europe, killing millions in the process. As the fairy king lies dying, his son returns in time to see him succumb to the Black Death, prompting the Prince to fight to save his newly inherited kingdom. Plague #1 combines modern issues of immigration, refugee status, despotism, and religious zealotry into a historical fantasy relevant to the present.

Fallon and Palmatier offer an interesting take on the havoc wreaked by the Black Death by working in fairies also being affected. By providing an affliction for both humans and fairies, the writers get the chance to give them some common ground before relying on the concept that there’s a distrust between the two races. On the one hand, there’s a warbishop intent on “cleansing” the magical creatures in an effort to save what’s left of humanity, while on the other hand, Fallon and Palmatier have worked in a sort of secession component on the part of the fairies who are just trying to save themselves. There is a somewhat expected love angle thrown into the mix between a human and a fairy, but so far, Fallon and Palmatier are keeping that aspect relatively quiet. Throughout the issue, the dialogue is pretty informative in giving the reader enough to go on without overwhelming them with information.

Brunner’s illustrations are loose in a way that provides the issue with a sense of antiquity. The humans and fairies are actually drawn in a way that showcase similarities between the two of them, enough so that Brunner can tap into a larger sense of empathy for the plight of everyone affected by the disease. Brunner renders the characters with sharp, concise lines that help to distinguish the differences in appearance between the two races, ensuring that even though they’re all affected by the disease it hits them differently. Pages are laid out with a plethora of smaller panels in a somewhat typical grid format. And Brunner illustrates the action throughout the forest with an emphasis on combat, effectively displaying the various beats that typically accompany a battle.

Plague #1 is an interesting take on a historic event. By adding in a fairy kingdom on the verge of chaos and a human dedicated to eradicating magic, the issue touches on a lot of more profound issues. Fallon and Palmatier have crafted a pretty solid script that effectively showcases the divide between the races. Brunner’s illustrations are emphatic and allow the emotion of the characters to react appropriately to the events. Plague #1 is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for some slightly anachronistic reading with a bit of mythology thrown in for good measure.

Plague #1 is available now.

The Greatest Adventure #1

“To say I was in trouble makes me guilty of considerable understatement.”

Tarzan is pretty much a known entity. It helps that the most recent attempt at rebooting him as a film franchise came out recently, but there’s a lot more to the legend of the character that has endured. There are quite a few other characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs that may not be as well known to modern day readers. Dynamite Entertainment is looking to change that in The Greatest Adventure #1. The issue is written by Bill Willingham, illustrated by Cezar Razek, colored by Daniela Miwa, and lettered by Taylor Esposito.

In ancient days, Jason gathered the greatest heroes of his age and set out on the ultimate sea voyage. Now, in Tarzan’s era, Jason Gridley does the same. The greatest heroes of the Burroughs universe come together as the crew of the good ship Venture, with none other than Tarzan as their captain. It’s a race this time, against a battleship of dark hearted villains, and the fate of many worlds hangs in the balance.

Willingham spends most of the first issue getting the reader ready for the series by having Jason Gridley recount a series of set-up events. Typically, such an overdose of expository might be a little overwhelming (and it is to an extent here), but Willingham makes it work very well. Considering the sheer number of characters included in the book, Willingham does a fantastic job of giving everyone page-time while simultaneously getting the reader up to speed. There’s a lot of disparate mythologies involved in the book and Willingham successfully weaves them all together through Gridley’s tale. The dialogue assists in this as well with characters introducing themselves to one another in a way that moves the story along and helps out the likely uninformed reader.

This is a book about pulp heroes, so it only makes sense that Razek’s style fits accordingly. His approach emphasizes that sense of nostalgia by showing characters drawn with multiple coarse lines that gives them a greater sense of heft. There’s a sense of grittiness in the way he places the characters on the page that goes a long way in reinforcing the notion that this comic could easily be found in a newspaper from a century ago. And each of the characters are pretty clearly distinguishable based on decades of lore; the establishing, two-page spread at the end of the issue is a great look at everyone involved. Miwa’s color work goes a long way in furthering the old-school comic mentality here, capitalizing on washed out tones throughout.

The Greatest Adventure #1 is a very intense first issue as far as storytelling goes, but the payoff could be immense. Bringing together such storied literary heroes is certainly no small task, but The Greatest Adventure #1 looks to be handling it well. Willingham spends the majority of the issue getting the reader acquainted with the key players and setting before diving into all the good stuff further down the line. Razek’s illustrations are perfect for the content of the story. The Greatest Adventure #1 is a pretty slick take on a slew of known characters, bringing them all together for a grand – dare I say great – adventure.

The Greatest Adventure #1 is available now.

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