Knights of Pendragon #13-18
Issue(s): Knights of Pendragon #13, Knights of Pendragon #14, Knights of Pendragon #15, Knights of Pendragon #16, Knights of Pendragon #17, Knights of Pendragon #18
Issue #13 is a re-introduction to the characters, which may seem to make sense based on the way i've split things up, with a lot of time between issues #12 and #13. But in fact the issues came out a month apart. So i don't know why it was decided to spend an issue introducing characters we already know at this point. It may have just been a planned fill-in, since it's the only issue with a different art team (Michael Collins on pencils, and inking help from Steve Pini). The format of the issue has Peter Hunter (the old teacher that can turn into the World War I era hero Albion) playing with a tarot deck, so rather than claw my eyeballs out with a spoon out of boredom, i'll just skip over it except to note that it ends with Hunter drawing The Spiral Tower card, which seems to mean something to him.
Issue #14 begins with the rest of the Pendragons (Kate McClellan, Ben Gallagher, and Union Jack) having all had prophetic dreams that are leading them to Africa. There is a kind of love triangle going on. Kate is with Ben. Jack pines for her, and Ben is the supremely jealous type. So that's the background drama as they travel and really throughout these issues. Meanwhile, also in Africa are Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman, who are visiting Black Panther in Wakanda (it's not actually said that this story takes place in Wakanda, but the summary blurb at the beginning of next issue confirms it. That does mean that a lot of people are wandering in to what i've always understood to be a closed country.).
The Pendragons' trail leads them to a place where the Bane are influencing a bunch of ivory hunters to massacre hippos.
Black Panther senses the slaughter, and nearly gets into a Misunderstanding Fight with the Pendragons when he gets there, but Mr. Fantastic stops it.
The Fantastic Four are aware of the Knights of Pendragon thanks to Iron Man.
By the way, i've generally been positive about Gary Erskine's art on this series. But i feel like it's degraded in a serious way here. Now it may be that it's been kind of bad all along. I have to admit that i sort of assumed that everyone in this story was supposed to be on the plain side, maybe even a bit ugly. I mean, they are just regular people. But in this arc Kate McClellan starts getting hit on by every guy she sees, and the Invisible Woman is an established character that is not supposed to look like something out of a Picasso painting. So either the art is getting worse or the presence of an established character has made me realize it's been bad all along, or some combination of the two. Looking back at the earlier issues, i'm standing by the idea that the art is degrading.
Anyway, the group decide to split up at this point. The FF have unrelated business back in the US. Kate and Ben go to Australia, which is where the hippo teeth are being shipped to for processing. And Union Jack and Black Panther go to Hong Kong, which is where the processed hippo teeth ultimately wind up, to be sold as an aphrodisiac.
Hunter/Albion, meanwhile, investigates his Spiral Tower lead and winds up in a library that turns out to be the base for Francesca Grace Lexley, the lead human minion for the Bane that we thought was defeated already.
And we're also introduced to an Adam Crown, a 17 year old that suddenly starts worrying that the Pendragons have split up.
Adam is being set up to be a Pendragon, too. In fact, he'll get to be King Arthur.
There is a shark man waiting for Ben and Kate in Australia.
And Black Panther and Union Jack run into a bunch of trouble in Hong Kong...
...culminating in the return of Dolph, the mercenary that has been working for Grace, and who is now warped by the Bane.
Ben is killed by the shark man, and Union Jack is killed by Dolph. Black Panther is beaten up pretty badly, but Jack managed to put him on his motorcycle, which is imbued with artificial intelligence, and which gets him to a hospital.
And Kate just sinks into a deep depression, especially when she finds out that Ben is dead at the same time she finds a refrigerator full of dead frogs.
Poison extracted from the frogs is used as part of a ritual to revive the Red Lord aka the Red Knight, aka the Bane. This is the same entity that Grace tried to resurrect in the previous arc but failed. Albion is sacrificed as part of the ritual. So that's a lot of dead Pendragons.
It's revealed in the lettercol for issue #17 that the series will be canceled after issue #18. But there are already plans to reboot the series with a new artist. Gary Erskine will be moving to a new book called Warheads, and in fact there are plans for several new Marvel UK books in 1992.
So for the wrap-up in issue #18, which may have been the plan all along, Adam Crown becomes King Arthur and summons all of the Pendragons to Avalon. That includes all Pendragons, past and present, dead and alive, and basically anyone that has helped them out. So Kate, in the middle of a fight with Dolph is summoned. Ben and Union Jack and Albion are resurrected and included. Black Panther is healed and taken from his hospital bed. And Iron Man is taken too (and yes, they're all taken away by owls).
And so is Dai Thomas.
And Captain Britain.
And many other people from throughout history, including Little John of Robin Hood fame.
So it is a big war between the forces of the Green Knight and the Red Lord.
The turning point is when King Arthur (who still retains his Adam Crown personality) decides to not try to overwhelm Grace with force, but instead with peace. The message of the book, about rejecting the greed that leads to environmental destruction, comes out here.
And with that, Grace, and many other servants of the Red Lord, have a change of heart and switch sides.
The Red Lord turns to the Green Knight, calls him clever, and lumbers away.
Both Union Jack and Ben Gallagher were wounded in the battle, and King Arthur does not have the power to resurrect them a second time. So Ben gives his grail (he represents Sir Percival) to Jack, which heals him, and then he dies for real this time.
The series flounders with these issues. There was a lot of promise after the previous arc, but most of this arc feels like just more of the same, almost a repeat, instead of going anywhere new. Things all feel more rushed even before we get to the ending, which manages a large scale war in half an issue. Which is too bad because a lot of what i've liked about previous issues was the dialogue and downtime segments. Things are happening too fast, and the stakes are too high and too desperate, for the quiet intelligence that made the earlier issues feel special. Still, there are fun moments here, and Gary Erskine's art actually does work very well with the mystical and gruesome stuff (and the rest of it isn't all bad; poor Invisible Woman seemed to get the worst of it). I also like the resolution even if i know it is kind of Care Bears.
To be clear, even though i thought this final arc kind of petered out, i do think this series is worth checking out, and there's a lot to enjoy even about these issues. Issue #14 of this series was actually the first one i picked up, in a bargain bin due to the striking cover, and that was enough to get me to pick up the rest of the series (the fact that it included "real" Marvel characters obviously helped).
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: All of the more mainstream Marvel character appearances are context free.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showAdam Crown, Albion, Alistaire Stuart, Alysande Stuart, Ben Gallagher, Black Panther, Cam McClellan, Captain Britain, Dai Thomas, Dolph, Francesca Grace Lexley, Green Knight, Hawkeye, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Justin Meyer, Kate McClellan, Mr. Fantastic, Randolph Frewin, Red Lord, Union Jack (Joey Chapman)
The "ignoring TV and newspapers for the last 30 years!" crack has to be considered hyperbole due to the sliding timeline, but probably wasn't meant as such (30 years is pretty literal). I've always gotten the sense that Marvel UK writers had a different approach to in-universe time-progression than US Marvel. The Transformers future setting changed one year for every real-life year, for instance. It will be an issue for you, a long time from now, when you get to 'Revolutionary War', which takes place in the contemporary Marvel Universe, but treats many characters as having been retired or unheard-from for a (in-universe) decade and a half.
Posted by: cullen | October 23, 2015 9:18 PM
That is a rather sexy back shot of regenerated Grace above.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 23, 2015 10:21 PM
Thanks for that link, Cullen. I'm not worried about the number of years mentioned since i always take temporal references with a grain of salt. But looks like there are some things regarding Killpower i'll have to watch out for. I did read and enjoy Revolutionary War even though i'd only read scattered issues of the Marvel UK books at the time. Looking forward to getting to it again (eventually!) after i review all the Marvel UK books.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 24, 2015 12:01 PM
Looking forward to getting to it again (eventually!) after I review all the Marvel UK books.
Good lord! I had forgotten about those. Man oh man, fnord, some of those are going to leave you yearning for a nice mediocre Marvel Comics Presents serial. And I can only imagine the mental gymnastics you're going to be enduring in attempting to fit all those freaking X-Men appearances in some sort of chronological order.
I foresee a great many quality ratings of D- in the near future.
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 27, 2015 10:53 PM
Fnord's rating scale doesn't go below D - it's not an option in the search-by-grade tool in the advanced search - although I don't think he's ever given an official explanation for the lack of D-'s like he has F.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | October 27, 2015 10:58 PM
Ah, well, Morgan, I stand corrected (or sit, since I'm at the computer). Whatever the case, I still foresee a lot of really low ratings coming up!
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 27, 2015 11:08 PM
Okay, those two panels of Sue might set a new low for any art involving an established Marvel character.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 19, 2016 12:47 PM
Erik- the way I see it it's not THAT bad since at least you can tell it's supposed to be Sue. (Albeit Picasso's impression of Sue.) Look at the Longshot story in Marvel Comics Presents 16- fnord and the Marvel Chronology Project had to list both Maddie and Rogue as appearing since nobody could tell which of them that woman was supposed to be.
Posted by: Michael | January 19, 2016 9:59 PM
Well, you can tell it's Sue because she's a blonde wearing an FF uniform, so I'm not sure how much that counts. I don't think the art in MCP is as bad - just that with no costume you can't tell who they intended.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 21, 2016 6:46 AM
Question: has it ever been explained why Grace has the same "square mouth" make-up as the psychics from the various Warheads troops?
Posted by: Piotr W | April 30, 2016 10:11 PM
@Piotr W - You mean, other than the fact that Gary Erskine drew them both? I doubt that there's any deeper reason than that. Unless you want to get all John Byrne on us and suggest Grace and Misha are related just because they wear the same makeup.
Posted by: Ben Herman | May 1, 2016 12:15 AM
Yeah, I figured so. Still, this make-up is so distinctive... and it also appears on non-Erskine Warheads (have you read the non-published "Loose Cannons", made available on the 2000AD site?). So, I was wondering whether there was some intended connection...
Posted by: Piotr W | May 1, 2016 5:26 AM
Comments are now closed.
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