Knights of Pendragon #1-5
Issue(s): Knights of Pendragon #1, Knights of Pendragon #2, Knights of Pendragon #3, Knights of Pendragon #4, Knights of Pendragon #5
The original Knights of Pendragon series ended with issue #18, and it's back now as part of a larger British invasion of comics from the Marvel UK office. Unlike the original series and other previous Marvel UK books like the original Death's Head series, this new wave of books were published with every intent of selling them in the United States, and indeed the ads and other features (like the Bullpen Bulletins) are the sames ones that appear in US comics, whereas the prior series featured British-specific classifieds, house ads for other British comics, and the like. The comics also all feature mainstream Marvel universe guest stars. The ones that appear here, Iron Man and the Black Knight, are perhaps the most organic. Iron Man appeared in the previous series, and Black Knight is no stranger to Marvel UK comics, having co-starred in a Captain Britain series circa 1979. But, for this series at least, the guest stars - and, i suppose a brief recap of the prior issues at the beginning of issue #1 - are the only concessions to the fact that this book might have been reaching a wider audience. The story is pretty dense and rambling, characters aren't really introduced, and it just doesn't read as 'new reader friendly'. At the same time, it's lost what made the original series occasionally compelling, and the changes to the status quo to align this book with the other new Marvel UK books feel forced and don't fit the characters very well.
The first of those changes is the fact that Mys-Tech, the ubiquitous evil corporation that are involved in all of the Marvel UK books, takes an interest in the Knights of the Pendragon and provides the main villain for these issues.
The Mys-Tech board aren't properly introduced here. I guess the assumption is that you're also reading the other UK books. But surely there were readers that were just continuing from the previous series that may not have been following the other books.
The other big change is that the Knights of Pendragon relocate their headquarters to a mystical tower called the Green Chapel in the alternate dimension of Avalon (previously they had a nifty little club house in the real world built with technology provided by Tony Stark). In the Chapel, they find new armor for themselves.
And it is high tech, Iron Man-like armor, not the knights in shining armor kind that you'd expect for this series.
I should note that Francesca Grace Lexley, who used to be the head agent of the evil Bane, is now one of the Pendragons, after Arthur Crown reached out to her at the end of the last series.
Union Jack is not with the rest of the Pendragons when the armor is discovered. He's been surveying an medieval amusement park called Questworld, which was built by Tony Stark in Darkmoor (which is the area where Captain Britain had his origin, although i think that's a coincidence).
But the robots in the park have a Westworld/Futureworld moment and go crazy.
I guess to underscore the value of the armor that the other Pendragons are concurrently finding, Union Jack complains about the lack of protection his costume provides during the battle.
Union Jack holds out long enough, and eventually the robot rebellion stops of its own accord. But one of the robots, meant to represent Sir Gawain, leaves the amusement part with a damaged Guinevere robot.
Union Jack calls Tony Stark to help investigate what went wrong with the robots and recover the two that are missing. Stark "sends" Iron Man and James Rhodes.
The woman seen knocking on the robot Merlin's head above is Breeze James. She's a reporter that's been hired to keep tabs on Union Jack for Mys-Tech, but she takes an interest in the Gawain robot and follows it instead. It leads her to the stone circle in Darkmoor. And something has brought the Black Knight (who is in archaic speaking mode, apparently) there as well.
Meanwhile, Union Jack goes back to Avalaon and gets himself a costume like the others. I know there are some concerns about the use of the Union Jack flag, but i don't consider his new costume to be an improvement.
Back on Earth, and this is my favorite part of these five issues, Iron Man and Rhodey complain about the quality and portion size of British food.
Some weird Mys-Tech mercenaries show up looking for Union Jack. These guys are called the Q7 Strike Force and they'll appear again in the Marvel UK Genedogs series.
Since Union Jack isn't around, they get into a fight with Iron Man instead.
He makes short work of them and they are recalled. Iron Man theorizes that a "freeze-frame" ability that stops time is what allows them to escape.
The Knights of Pendragon come back from Avalon, wearing their neato new armor and driving neato new vehicles (modelled after the one called BERYL that Union Jack has had all along). If i didn't know better i'd think they were advertising a toy line.
Sheesh, Rhodey. What's with that Armor Wars crack?
Meanwhile, the Guinevere robot dies out completely. Black Knight, had been following Breeze, and he finally approaches her, but when the Gawain robot hears that he's the Black Knight, he gets the wrong idea and attacks.
Black Knight is about to destroy Gawain when Breeze hits him with a Mys-Tech paralyzing device.
The Gawain robot is just confused.
Breeze summons another Mys-Tech mercenary, called Magpie.
Magpie is clearly a villain while Gawain is a good but confused "robot". He's not sure why Breeze, who he thinks is Guinevere, is associating with a guy like that. But before that goes too far, the Knights of the Pendragon show up in their little toy planes.
Ok, so here's major fail in the sequential art. You see in the above panel Magpie is attacking, firing little lasers out of his hands or whatever. Here's the very next page.
I guess Iron Man just stood there and shrugged off those lasers.
Here's the panel directly after the above page. I love Iron Man just laying there talking about how he's ok. It was just Magpie's speed and raw power that was the problem. But he's totally fine.
Anyway, i thought it was pretty funny that Iron Man took out a whole team of Mys-Tech villains while the Knights of Pendragon were off getting dressed, so it's only fair that he sits out the first half of the fight against Magpie.
But eventually Iron Man and even Rhodey have to get back in. Because Magpie is just that tough.
"I'm Magpie, you fools!"
Breeze tries to help Magpie, but Union Jack causes her to get hit by her own paralyzing beam. This enrages Gawain-bot.
Adam Crown manages to stab Magpie with his sword, and Magpie teleports away. Meanwhile, Union Jack has Gawain on the ropes, but finds that his armor won't let him make the final blow. And it's theorized that it's because Gawain is also a Knight of the Pendragon.
When it's all over, Iron Man politely tells the Pendragons that, sure, Magpie would have even given the Avengers a hard time (the same Avengers that Hardcase and the Harriers could beat, maybe).
The last we see of the Black Knight is when he gets paralyzed by Breeze, which is really weird. Iron Man goes to Avalon with the Pendragons. Hopefully they made sure the Black Knight was ok first and didn't just leave him stuck there.
In Avalon, Breeze is interrogated and she says that she doesn't really know much about Mys-Tech. She was just hired to do a job. But she suddenly has a vision about a guy who is about to cause a meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Scotland (we've been seeing subplot scenes building this up; he's being goaded by the ghost of his wife, who died in a nuclear accident).
Breeze agrees to tell everything she knows about Mys-Tech if they'll take her vision seriously, so most of the Pendragons fly off again in their totally rad bike-planes.
However, their high tech armor warns them that radiation levels are too high for them to enter.
Meanwhile, Iron Man and Albion investigate the Gawain robot. Gawain calls Albion "Merlin", which is meant to be a surprise, but Mys-Tech already identified Albion as the Merlin analogue in their opening recap. In any event, Iron Man confirms that the memories that the Gawain robot has were not put there by Stark Enterprises. Iron Man then has to leave to respond to an Avengers priority call (which can apparently reach Avalon). Iron Man pretty much gives away his secret ID as he's leaving.
The Gawain is sent to the nuclear facility, and, since he's a robot, he's able to enter and fight the evil demons that have been goading the widower husband. They turn out to be agents of Bane.
Left alone in Avalon, Breeze becomes a Knight of Pendragon herself.
As for Mys-Tech, they are all but ready to give up on messing with the Pendragons after losing contact with Breeze.
But they decide to give Magpie one more chance.
So while the rest of the Knights of Pendragon return to Avalon, Grace and Albion receive what they think is a call for help from Dai Thomas, but which was really faked by Magpie. Thomas is currently on a stakeout in a nightclub. Magpie really just wants access to their bikes, but he first attacks them in the club. And, ok, maybe this guy isn't a total loser. He shrugs off getting shot by Dai.
Then he retreats and grabs Grace's bike and uses it to go to Avalon. Grace and Albion follow in Albion's vehicle. Magpie leaves the bike behind and goes ahead on foot, and when Grace sees the bike, she sabotages it. They then chase after Magpie and fight him again.
He continues to give them trouble, but Grace tells him that he's not equipped to handle the radiation levels in Avalon and says that he'll die if he doesn't leave.
He doesn't totally believe her, but he teleports away, back to Grace's bike. And, since Grace sabotaged it, it takes him to a demonic dimension. That wasn't Grace's exact intention; she just disabled the navigation system. A clever ploy, though.
With that all over, Grace and Albion return to the Green Chapel, to find that the Kights of Pendragon have received yet another armor upgrade, this time courtesy of Alan Davis. But we'll learn more about that in the next arc, which also features an appearance by Spider-Man, so please don't drop this series yet, ok guys?!
Probably not a good sign that the series is changing direction again after just five issues. The book does last until issue #15, though. The Alan Davis designs will make the book even more super-hero oriented. A far cry from the blend of enviro-political stories and mythology of the original series. I guess some of those elements are there at a superficial level. The nuclear plant plot, influenced by the Bane, is along the lines of the plots of the first series, but that plot in these issues is basically an afterthought. If you think about what we've actually got here, it's not much. Some runaway robots, and some random attacks by Mys-Tech, who ultimately decide to not bother with the Knights of Pendragon anymore.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: I've pushed this back quite a bit in publication time (something i am probably going to say a lot for the Marvel UK books). A footnote says that this takes place before Iron Man #280 (which begins a story where he fakes his death), but the events leading up to Iron Man #280 start with Iron Man's choice of armor during Operation: Galactic Storm, so there should be as few Iron Man appearances as possible between Galactic Storm and the post-Storm Iron Man issues. Additionally, the Black Knight is using his original ebony sword, not the lightsaber that he starts using in Avengers #343. Both of these considerations are circumstantial and could be ignored if necessary, but combined they make a good case for pushing things back. It's said an agent of the Warheads named Ortega provided Mys-Tech with the background and footage of the Knights of the Pendragon, so this would have to take place after the Warheads are formed. But this is the only mention of a Warhead named Ortega, and the Warheads are already formed by issue #1 of their series, so this doesn't really affect placement. I'm not worried about lining up Iron Man's Avengers priority call with anything, since i don't think it's meant to refer to anything specific. Could be a false alarm, or just Iron Man's excuse for getting out of there. Dai Thomas' appearance is context free, so this just needs to fit in any break in his Excalibur appearances (and it would be ok if he were working on multiple cases at the same time). Since it's basically established that the Gawain robot is holding the spirit of the real Sir Gawain, i'm using the same tag for him as the one that Dai Thomas channeled in the original series.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAdam Crown, Albion, Algernon Crowe, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Breeze James, Bronwen Gryfnn, Dai Thomas, Eadmund Porlock, Francesca Grace Lexley, Gudrun Tyburn, Harvester, Iron Man, Magpie, Ormond Wychwood, Ranulph Haldane, Red Lord, Sir Gawain, Tanuta Umbotha, Union Jack (Joey Chapman), Valinor, Victor Sternwood, War Machine
Adolfo Buylla was mainly known for working on Western/Gold Key's mystery anthology books.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 2, 2016 10:53 AM
This wave of Marvel UK comics originally appeared as features in a large comic mag in the UK--maybe called Overkill?--before being repackaged for the US market in US comics format. That's why the ads and Bullpen Bulletins are the same. Apparently many of the guest appearances bu US characters were also added as new pages in the US comics but didn't appear in the original Overkill format.
However sliced and diced, these were some awful comics, a dismaying downturn from a Marvel branch that had previously give us the original Death's Head and Knights of Pendragon, and of course some A+ Captain Britain comics.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | March 9, 2016 11:48 PM
Walter, i talked about this a bit on the Warheads #1-3 entry, although from what i've read it's the other way around: the comics were trimmed and then reprinted in Overkill. Granted, i'm just going by Wikipedia, so that could be wrong.
Regarding the trimming of the super-heroes, i'm not sure if it would have been the case for this series. Iron Man was already a character that appeared in this book, so his return might have been ok. And his scenes, or at least the fight with Magpie and then the confirmation that the Gawain robot has memories that weren't programmed in by Stark, seem integral to the plot.
The Black Knight appearance may very well have been trimmed, though. Frankly it's so extraneous it should have been trimmed from the US books too.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 10, 2016 8:49 AM
Thanks, fnord, I think you're right that Iron Man was always present in this story, whatever its form.
By the way, about the panel where Magpie shoots lasers at Iron Man, only for the next panel to show no reaction: the art is lousy, but I think what's actually meant to be going on is that Magpie isn't "shooting" lasers, instead he's "popping his claws." The lasers are "blades" from his fingertips, rather than a long-range attack.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | March 12, 2016 12:10 AM
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