Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon - Some Thoughts & Theories

Before I start, a reminder. While this is a summary for Chapter 3 (the greatest of apologies), Chapter 5 Revolutionary War: Super Soldiers is now coming out this Wednesday (26th February 2014), courtesy of Rob Williams and Brent Anderson. This one has a really interesting premise, so I would really recommend checking it out. A four page preview (which should cover that premise very well indeed) is up at Comic Book Resources.

Okay, back to the task at hand. So, albeit unavoidably delayed by a few weeks, here is my summary for the third Chapter of Revolutionary War - Knights of Pendragon.

This third chapter, written by Rob Williams, was originally solicited as having art supplied by Simon Coleby. This changed. The art for the issue is actually by Will Sliney. Though let me be absolutely clear when I say that it does not suffer at all for it. Sliney's artwork, with colours by Veronica Gandini, looks genuinely great. You'll see a few examples throughout this article.

This issue also had a variant cover (as can be seen here) supplied by 'Edwards, Pallot & Redmond'. It featured the second volume costume renditions of Adam Crown and Francesca Grace, alongside a modern Union Jack. It should, however, be noted that neither Adam nor Grace appear in this issue. It's purely a tribute cover.

Sorry about that. But a nice nod to the past, all the same. :)

Now we here at It Came From Darkmoor are huge fans of Knight of Pendragon. In terms of Marvel UK history it's a damned important book. Without its success we probably would not have had the 90s Imprint which spawned the majority of characters which are appearing in Revolutionary War. This was the precursor to the UK office really being taken seriously as an entity in its own right.

Knights of Pendragon was a standout book. It was still Marvel Comics' characters, but they were appearing in what was at its base a high concept myth and legend story, and with a decidedly different (and much darker) tone for those characters than was usually explored in their US appearances. While we're not quite talking Vertigo comics levels of 'mature reading' this was nevertheless a series which showed its readers things such as scenes of serial killers cutting motifs out of the flesh of their victims, showed the discovery of mutilated body parts turning up packing crates, and somewhat controversially even showed a costumed hero seemingly beating a non-powered character to a bloody pulp - beating him quite literally to within an inch of his life.

It was never gratuitous, but Knights of Pendragon was certainly a little more mature in its themes and content, that's for sure. It set a standard back in 1990. It became the standard by which Marvel UK went forward.

Understandably, to this day it has some very dedicated fans on the back of that. It even has a fan fiction community who continued writing Pendragons stories online.

So yes. There's a certain tone which many readers expect from a title bearing the Pendragon name. For those readers the more light-hearted tone of Revolutionary War: Knights of Pendragon was not entirely to their personal tastes.

I got emails. And tweets. They were not happy ones.

I personally enjoyed the issue. If I had one grumble it would be that it did seem a little rushed to its conclusion, given some of the excellent concepts it touched upon. But I did enjoy it. I can however, understand where they are coming from. I want to draw a line under that and move on. But yes, guys, I heard you. I get where you're coming from.

I'm going to be looking at this issue objectively, and I hope that a few weeks on you might also think about a few of the things I'm going to be highlighting here, and give the book a second chance.

Okay, so with that in mind (and the issue as a whole) here are my Thoughts and Theories...

So what's the story about?

Well, it seems that long time Pendragons foe the Omni-Corporation are out and about again. This time they're Fracking in the Lake District. And yes. I did say 'Fracking'. As in hydraulic fracking for gas and petroleum, and not the pseudo-swearing used by the likes of 2000 AD or Battlestar Galactica. :)

Omni? Weren't they a front for Mys-Tech?

A subsidiary company of, yes. While in the original Pendragons run Omni were an evil multinational company (who just happened to be a front for an evil species known as 'The Bane') it was established at the start of the second volume of Knights of Pendragon that Omni were in fact a subsidiary company of Mys-Tech.

So when they 'say' they're fracking there's more to it, right?

What do you think? :) But we'll get to that...

So no Adam Crown, and no Grace? Which other Pendragons appear?

Well, maybe I should let them introduce themselves...

First up:

Both Dai and Kate were original members of the team during it's first run. All of the above is true. And yes, since we last saw Dai (way back in Paul Cornell's Wisdom MAX series) he has once again become possessed by the spirit of Arthurian Knight Sir Gawain, who occasionally channels his way into Dai's body to help or hinder him, depending on the occasion.

Something like that, for instance. Kate's been researching, and with Gawain's guidance they've realised that the position of Omni's fracking and that of an old Mys-Tech underground lab appear to have a little too much in common for it to be a coincidence....

We also have:

Wait! Pete Wisdom wasn't a Pendragon. He'd not even debuted back then.


But after the events of Revolutionary War: Alpha Captain Britain is now MIA, and with the dire need of a Powerhouse British Hero being a thing, Wisdom and Union Jack are off to reacquaint themselves with another one...

Union Jack was a Pendragon in both previous runs of the original series. Although thankfully his modern look is used here, rather than his appearance from the last Pendragons run...

Or the 'Union Juggernaut' as many fans have dubbed him...

But didn't he appear in that costume in the flashback in the Alpha issue?

Um... erm...

Moving on!

So which other British hero are they searching for?

Well, that would be Peter Hunter - 'Albion' the costumed hero of the trenches of World War One.

Ah, yes! Because he appeared in that Un-Earth vision back in the Alpha issue.

He did indeed.

Appearing much as he used to in the first volume of Knights of Pendragon. The old school teacher who doesn't let his students know that he used to be a hero...

So what's he been up to since last we saw him?

Well it looks like Albion has, at least for some while, been residing in the The Green Chapel, in Avalon.

The what in the where now?

Sorry... let me explain.

The previous incarnation of the Knights of Pendragon were always based out of a structure called the Green Chapel. 

The Green Chapel stands in the region of Otherworld known as Avalon. 

It's also the home of the Pendragon's mentor, known only as The Green Knight.

The Green Knight is probably not its original name. I don't think anybody knows what its original name actually is, if it even had one at all. But it takes its name from the Arthurian legend "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" in which Sir Gawain is tricked into a challenge with an opponent who he cannot beat, even having removed his opponent's head.

In Knights of Pendragon, though, the Green Knight is a rather complicated entity, which strives only to maintain the balance of nature in the world. When a threat arises to endanger the natural order, across history, the Green Knight has transformed men and women into its champions, to go out into the world and restore the balance. Hundreds across history. In the space of the 2 Knights of Pendragon series he has chosen ordinary men and women like Dai and Kate, but also existing Marvel heroes including Union Jack, Black Panther, Captain Britain, The Black Knight and Iron Man.

This is, to me, what has always made Knights of Pendragon a stand out, untapped, resource at Marvel. With ties to so many properties, and such a strong concept as the one above, leaving it untouched for so long is such a bizarre move, in my book.

But, anyway... Avalon and Otherworld. 

It's important to understand that the landscape of Otherworld, which is probably most closely associated with Captain Britain stories, is always subject to a certain amount of physical change. This is because it is a whole dimension of space which is tied to (and shaped by) the people of Marvel's Britain. Their sense of what is 'British' is what effects how the landscape appears.

Now in the past Marvel has often shown us glimpses of Otherworld as being this kinda hokey 'Ye Olde England' theme park vision of Britain. Castles, Bowman, Robin Hood, Knights, Chivalry... terrible Olde Worlde dialogue.

Yeah. That.

In more recent times though we've had stories such as Journey into Mystery's 'Manchester Gods' arc, injecting a sledgehammer of industrialisation into the landscape.

Things have been changing in the consciousness of Marvel's Britons - and its no different here. Where once was idyllic and filled with greenery, a certain amount of globalisation has began to creep in.

Ah. Yes. That's a little bit different.

I really like the concept here. These are the kind of ideas which I've been asking to be explored at Marvel, for years. British identity has changed such an incredible amount since the 1970s, and here we have a landscape which is simply perfect for producing a commentary on all of that through clever storytelling.

But this being a 'British Thing' it just hasn't been. 

I can't help but think if Otherworld was as a dimension based upon the American psyche we'd be getting that regularly explored. 

As it is. We don't. Sadly.

Anyway, this cultural invasion has permeated into the very fibres of Avalon. Of the Green Knight...

Even Peter Hunter, trapped between screens, in an endless cycle of daytime television...

Wait! Albion wasn't bald in the Un-Earth Vision! What's going on??

You really don't miss a trick, do you? An Art error, maybe? Or in some way an added effect of what's happening around Albion. Who can say? I mean the last time we saw Albion in the 90s he was in a rejuvenated body again. Maybe that is what has caused him to age? 

It doesn't match, no. Which is a shame, but not world shattering.

So, back to the plot? Please tell me Fracking isn't the real enemy? 

Well, fracking is probably always the real enemy. :) But no. Mys-Tech intentionally had the area mined to unleash something, previously prepared, upon the world. 

Well? What was it?




I was not prepared for that.

How many people are ever truly prepared for Knights of the Zombie Round Table?

A valid question.

Isn't it.

Are they the real Knights of the Round table... as Zombies?

Possibly. It's a little unclear. They certainly seem to believe they are. They even have a Zombie Excalibur.

Oh, good grief...


This is just one of those big, dumb, larger than life concepts which you can't help but enjoy. It's light-hearted silliness, but it's fun. My only grumble is that the knights keep on using the word "Briton" - meaning a person of Britain - as if they think it's just some kind of Ye Olde English term for 'Britain'.

That really is odd. Does it happen a lot?

Just a little...

What the hell!? The mean 'Britain,' right?

I would assume so. It's all very odd. It would be like calling the USA the 'United States of American'. 

The thing is, I can only assume this is a truly weird editorial or lettering muck up. I mean the writer, Rob Williams, is British. He'd know the difference. 

Minor mistakes, such as when the term 'Ley Line' is incorrectly spelled as "Lay Line" in that first panel? Fine. Typo. That's okay. But this is a frequently repeated term being used completely incorrectly. It becomes very jarring. 

So I notice Sir Gawain appears on the cover of this issue...?

He does.

But if he's inside Dai Thomas, how does that work?

Well, back in the original series, Gawain's spirit found it's way into Dai and slowly began to change him. From the out of shape, chain smoking copper of Scotland Yard...

Very quickly into a much leaner individual...

(Obviously the guy on the left. Not Captain Britain)

...the longer Gawain's spirit stayed in him. But it was still more like a possession. Gawain's memories in Dai's head. Physical tweaks rather than an actual change.

In this issue that kinda changed.

Here Dai is shown to physically transform into Sir Gawain. Off camera, so to speak, but a physical change nonetheless. Where exactly the armour and sword actually comes from, I'm unsure. I'd imagine this approach was taken because it's far quicker and easier to illustrate this way than try to explain Gawain directing Dai's actions. Far easier to display to new readers. But nevertheless I can understand why it's rubbed some readers up the wrong way. 

So yes, that's why a filly armoured Gawain appears as he does on the cover. Not an android. Not a ghost. The real deal. Maybe something to explore another day, in another series. It's a little odd, but if we can buy into the logic that the Green Knight can de-age Peter Hunter is Dai transforming int Gawain really that far a stretch?

So Albion does get de-aged?

Oh. Yes. Sorry. Probably aught to have mentioned that.

Okay, maybe the Zombie Excalibur thing is kinda funny...

Yeah. It made me laugh.

And it is great to see Albion back in action. My only grumble is that it actually only lasts 4 panels. We don't really get to see who takes Hunter down. Or how. He's briefly visible in the background, seemingly fighting back, and then he's down and carried off.

That's a bit abrupt.

It really is.

And just like that Mys-Tech have their hands on one more hero. That's three now. Captain Britain, Dark Angel, and now Albion.

Wait, did they just mention The Bane??

Spotted that, eh?

Yes. The Bane. Original adversaries of the Pendragons. Certainly the adversaries of The Green Knight.

These guys... 

No signs of The Red Lord, though it's possible that Albion is referring to 'him' when the Zombie Knights begin to stir. The Zombie Knights themselves mention serving The Bane several times, although we don't actually see them in panel.

It does make me wonder if they were originally planned to play a more active role in this story. 

So how does the issue get resolved?

Well, that would be the Green Knight. Sort of.  

Sort of?

Sort of. Just not as... we know him.

You see with Albion kidnapped, what remains of the Pendragons are really up against it. Overrun. By Arthurian Zombies.

Which is when Pete Wisdom tries a risky play. Zombie Excalibur's still lying around to hand and with the Green Knight grown over by bracken he decides to try and... wake it up. By introducing one to the other. 

The result is a melding of old and new.

Meet "G Knight".

Meet who, now?


All the magic, heart and soul, of an Old God repackaged in the form of modern Britain. And what better typifies modern Britain than the form of a giant Olympian Athlete treading zombies into the dirt.

You know what's really odd here? I honestly would have thought that to be a fairly obvious likeness. I mean Farah was such a huge personality of the 2012 Olympics, right? Yet I've seen several posters on forums confused by this one. Granted, mostly American readers, but I was very surprised that they wouldn't have been aware of who Mo Farah is. I mean, I'm British (funnily enough), but I know what guys like Michael Phelps look like, for example. I was quite surprised by that.

Anyway, I know that this one upset a few people. While they conceded that the idea was a pretty clever one, they felt that this transformation in some way belittled the Knights of Pendragon concept. Or to some degree, even if unintentionally, that it sent it up.

Again, I can kind of understand how some might feel that way, but I honestly wouldn't feel too aggrieved. Clearly no offense was intended, here. And think about the transitory nature of Otherworld. The Green Knight has assumed this form specifically for this situation. Where a giant running shoe was the quickest way to resolve things. He can assume many forms. He has before, and will again. Yes, it's for comic effect here. But it's a joke which makes use of a knowledge of the series. I don't think that it sends it up. There is respect here.

All in all, granted, in comparison to the Alpha or Dark Angel issues of Revolutionary War this one does read more like an interlude than a crucial part of the story. But there are some really strong elements to this issue. From ongoing gags like Pete Wisdom's Prog Rock references and Dai's Dylan Thomas quotes, to the overall concepts of the modern world encroaching on the British psyche. For me personally, my only major grumble is that concept alone could have spawn a mini series worthy of exploration in its own right. There's not enough space to explore it in a single issue. Nor is there really space to explore a whole new Knights of Pendragon status quo - which I'm sure many readers would love to read, but wasn't really ever going to be on the cards in a single issue. 

I do find myself hoping though, as was also the case with Journey into Mystery's 'Manchester Gods', that we do at some point get some kind of peaceful synthesis for Otherworld. Here again we see the old torn up an replaced with elements of the new. But this is Britain. It is both old and new. There's no reason why both can't co-exist, as an overview.

But, yes. That too is a story for another day. 

As it is, this issue has moved one more important piece into Mys-Tech hands. And Albion makes three...

Well, we assume three. 

If that's where Death's Head II was taking Captain Britain.  

More of that in the Death's Head issue. Which should still be available, and which I would definitely recommend you track down if you missed it. It's something rather special.

I'll have a summary for that up in the next week. And again, apologies for the delays with the site, of late. I'm working hard to catch up when I get a moment. 

In the meantime, Revolutionary War: Super Soldiers is out on Wednesday. Joseph 'Invincible' Hauer was in that Un-Earth vision, as well... 

I think we can see where that might be going. ;)

Until the next time.




  1. Cheers for that - I liked the issue but did feel it was all a bit abrupt. The "Revolutionary War" event might have been better if it had been like Abnett and Lanning's "Annihilation" and its sequels - a collection of mini-series bookended by specials. There would have been more room for the story to breathe and characters and motivations to be explained.

    Looking forward to your take on the Death's Head II book - for my money it's been the best issue of the event so far and one that really managed to nail the characters and the feel of the best of the old Marvel UK.

    1. Hi Cerandor,

      It would be great having that kind of room to play in, I agree. If there is one thing this issue left me with it was that want to see so many things explored further. Knights of Pendragon has always struck me as such a brilliant concept, and while its groundings are very much in Great Britain the original series went all over the world in order for the Green Knight's wishes to be carried out.

      When you think that guys like Black Panther, Iron Man and the Black Knight have all been part of the Pendragons it kind of goes to show that pretty much ANY character from within Marvel Comics could be brought into the book in order to have a big name appearing on the team. I genuinely think it's the kind of concept which I've always wanted to see somebody throw out the likes of Neil Gaiman, for a limited series or something.

      Such potential.

      And yes, the Death's Head book is marvellous. I've had so many other things getting in my way of updating the blog these past few weeks, that I haven't had a chance to post up about it. But it is my favourite of the lot so far.

  2. This is a rare one for me, but I really latched onto what was going on in this KOP one-off. I'm surprised people have reacted so negatively. Whilst I love the folklore of Britain that informs KOP, in terms of our society, all of our own history has been subsumed as we look to America for our 'cultural learnings'. I think the spirit of the 2012 Olympics (and Mo Farrah) was a perfect analogy for the Green Knight to assume to represent where Britain is at NOW.

    Looking back on the run of KOP from 1992, there's more to be outraged about in that book as it becomes so totally divorced from the original concept and 18 issue run to turn into just another goofy super hero book.

    This one shot does a lot to undo that damage and take elements from both books and make them work.

    And just on Dai's transformation into Gawain - I'm sure this happened in the original book too , where to show the more overt changes to Dai, we do see him as Gawain.

    Personally, I wasn't sad that Simon Coleby didn't make it onto the art duties. His odd, blocky style wouldn't have been a good fit for the book.

    1. Hi Simon,

      Have to say I was more than a little surprised by the negativity, myself. Some of it I can kind of understand, but at least one response I received (and it was an objection to the use of Mo Farah) I disagreed with quite strongly.

      Now that I think about it I may have to go back and look into Dai's transformation. Because it may just be my ropey memorry, here. I think you might be right.

      Thought Will Sliney's art was really strong on this book, also.