“If I were to be made a knight,” said the Wart, staring dreamily into the fire, “I should insist on doing my vigil by myself, as Hob does with his hawks, and I should pray to God to let me encounter all the evil in the world in my own person, so that if I conquered there would be none left, and, if I were defeated, I would be the one to suffer for it.”
“That would be extremely presumptuous of you,” said Merlyn, “and you would be conquered, and you would suffer for it.”
“I shouldn’t mind.”
“Wouldn’t you? Wait till it happens and see.”
– Chapter Twenty of The Sword in the Stone,
by T. H. White
In this graphic novel, we follow a gruff heroic knight forced out of retirement and a beautiful warrior maiden with a temper as they search for the magical ingredients the maiden’s sorceress-princess mother requires to stop the return of a despotic imprisoned god.
With an interesting tonal mix between the typical epic fantasy stakes, typical low fantasy character flaws and splashes of irreverent blue comedy, the story is rather engaging, even as it to some extent goes through the motions of the typical genre Quest. This is, however, greatly alleviated by the ending, which feels both surprising and inevitable at the same time.
What really sells one on this story, though, is of course the gorgeous artwork, which really gets a chance to shine in the huge page format this book has.
However, the English translation is unfortunately rather erratic, sometimes making it hard to know exactly what a character is referring to with a given statement, and I often had to pan back and forth between several panels to make proper sense of what was being said. If you can read it in the original French, I therefore suspect you’ll get a much better experience.
But even with the translation’s issues, I really enjoyed this, and would not hesitate to recommend it to any fans of epic fantasy who are looking for something pretty to read that is both tried and true, but also ever so slightly different.
If you are ever forced to take a chemistry class, you will probably see, at the front of the classroom, a large chart divided into squares, with different numbers and letters in each of them. This chart is called the table of the elements, and scientists like to say that it contains all the substances that make up our world. Like everyone else, scientists are wrong from time to time, and it is easy to see that they are wrong about the table of the elements. Because although this table contains a great many elements, from the element oxygen, which is found in the air, to the element aluminium, which is found in cans of soda, the table of the elements does not contain one of the most powerful elements that make up our world, and that is the element of surprise.
– Lemony Snicket in The Ersatz Elevator,
Book the Sixth of A Series of Unfortunate Events
Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on. He went among the villagers and blipped them on the head.
– A. A. Milne, demonstrating with his poem Bad Sir Brian Botany how to excel at opening lines.
To me personally, this will always be one of the finest graphic novels in existence, putting Don Rosa up there with the likes of Alan Moore and Art Spiegelman. Of course, my opinion is coloured by a multitude of particular factors — by having read this excellent saga doled out in tiny chapters over the course of half my childhood, by before that having already spent my entire living memory immersed in stories set in this universe, by being a person who loves continuity finally being given the backstory of one of my favourite characters in what was (and is) usually considered a continuity-devoid universe …
But in fairness, a lot of these factors can be boiled down to me being the exact target demographic when I first read The Life and Times of $crooge McDuck. In age, and in interests. And one can hardly hold that against it.
Finally, one of the biggest mice spoke.
‘Is there nothing we can do,’ it asked, ‘to repay you for saving the life of our Queen?’
‘Nothing that I know of,’ answered the Woodman; but the Scarecrow, who had been trying to think, but could not because his head was stuffed with straw, said, quickly, ‘Oh, yes; you can save our friend, the Cowardly Lion, who is asleep in the poppy bed.’
– The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum.
It is a popular superstition in Denmark, that under every church that is built, a living horse must be buried: the ghost of this horse is the death horse, that limps every night on three legs to the house where some one is to die. Under a few churches a living pig was buried, and the ghost of this was called the grave pig.
From the footnotes on page 360 of The Complete Illustrated Works of Hans Christian Andersen (originally published in 1889 as Stories for the Household)