Excalibur: The Legend of King Arthur

Written by Tony Lee
Review by Mary Burns

This is not your grandmother’s King Arthur. From the man who turned Pride and Prejudice and Zombies into a graphic novel (Tony Lee) and comic book artist and illustrator Sam Hart comes an imaginative retelling of the Arthurian legend that seems to blend several large- and small-screen versions of the story with some completely new plotlines. Not that it’s not interesting, but it does strain credulity just a bit, with a love story between King Arthur and the Lady of the Lake that provides a happy ending – yes, I said “happy ending” – for Arthur and Camelot. Guinevere is a warrior queen to whom the knights pledge their fealty after Arthur’s death – she will then rule in his place. Merlin and Morgan le Fey are enemies but also work together at times for common ends. There is a very interesting interpolation of ancient Irish mythology, with Bran the Blessed as the ruler of the mystical Avalon – a realm of “fey folk” called the Seelie Court, to which Arthur is spirited by Merlin in order to learn how to fight and become a leader of men. He is “gone” overnight from the earthly world, but it’s a span of two years in the Seelie Court of Avalon.

Sam Hart’s artwork has a certain violent strength, and varies from sketchy to detailed, with lots of black swashes. Different segments of the story are washed in shades of the same color, mostly reds and oranges and browns, with some purples and blues for night scenes. The dialogue is choppy at best, clichéd at worst, but it tells the story. I’m just not sure how a regular fan of graphic novels would view this; the story is told in all seriousness, and is certainly true to the Arthurian themes of idealism, loyalty, betrayal, and hope. But to an adult addicted to works of good literature, reading this is like eating vanilla yogurt when what you really want is a triple banana split with all the trimmings.