Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Black Knight #1 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I have to admit that I was the most excited about this title's debut of all the "All-New, All-Different" series.

Bob Harras' "The Gatherers Saga" during his "Avengers" run was possibly the most exciting -- and frustrating -- storyline of my youth.  I keep meaning to re-read it, because my memories of it are clouded by my adolescent impatience for him to get to the point.  After all, it took him 32 issues to reveal (spoiler alert!) that Proctor was an alternate version of Dane driven mad by his love for Sersi.  Even with that frustration, I still knew that I was reading something special.  During an era where the "Avengers" had no "famous" member other than Captain America, Harras made us care about this team, particularly through Dane and Sersi's ill-fated romance.

After Dane followed Sersi into an alternate Universe (for reasons that I can't quite remember) in 1994, he sort of fell off the map.  He joined Ultraforce and then Heroes for Hire for brief stints.  After 1998, he had only the occasional guest appearance until he got a gig in 2008 in "Captain Britain and MI13."  (Thank you, Comic Book Database!).  He left that series the next year, and he returned to guest appearances...until now.  (Do you like how I'm referring to him like he's a sitcom actor?)  In other words, it's a big deal that Marvel is removing Dane from moth balls, as it seems to be doing with other characters like him, and giving him a shot at the big time again.

Tieri starts the issue with a compressed but detailed review of Dane's origins (the fact that he comes from a long line of Black Knights) before throwing us immediately into his new status quo.  He's apparently taken over a corner of Weirdworld (I'm still not sure what that is) and dubbed it New Avalon.  He faces a number of threats to his leadership, including the absconded son of the King that he deposed and a rival group called the Order of the Serpents.  (They are actually serpents.)  Although I'm not sure that I'm a fan of Pizzari's art, I'll admit that he does a great job of showing how, well, weird Weirdworld is.  It's full of disintegrating snake-men, fire-breathing trolls, and large-jawed mosquitoes.  Weird, indeed.

Believing this weirdness is key, because it helps us understand how isolated Dane feels.  He's sending out his men to find relics from our world (they're apparently scattered around Weirdworld) and surrounds himself with them to remind him of home.  It raises obvious questions about why he's on Weirdworld and why he can't go home.  Tieri is playing his cards close to his chest so far on both questions.  However, we get some clues in a conversation that Dane has with a vision of his ancestor, Sir Percy.  Percy asserts (and Dane doesn't necessarily deny) that Dane is succumbing to the power of the Blade.

Supporting Percy's point, Tieri takes us into a flashback, where Dane decapitates the former King of New Avalon, Zaltin Tar, to take his throne.  Plus, you could argue that Dane talking to the vision of Percy itself calls into question how he's doing mentally.  As such, we're led to assume that he can't return home because he knows that he's losing the battle against the Blade, though, again, Tieri hasn't confirmed that yet.  It's just clear that he himself has decided that he can't go home, not anyone else.  Making matters more interesting, he also has his men keeping an eye on the arrival of "invaders" that he's expecting.  Eventually, they're revealed to be the Unity Squad.  When they arrive, Dane announces that they won't drag him home alive.

In other words, we have a lot of questions here, including how Dane found himself leading the rebellion against Zaltin Tar in the first place.  But, Tieri does a solid job of securing the basics here, sketching out the realities of Dane's new life, including establishing a not-so-warm-and-fuzzy supporting cast.  Along the way, Tieri manages to find Dane's sense of humor, something that Harras also made clear during his run on "Avengers."  But, given how few people have written Dane on a consistent basis and how long that it has been since that last happened, Tieri really has a clean slate in terms of defining Dane's personality.  The good news is that, so far, I like where Tieri's going with him.  Between that and the intriguing questions that he raises here, I'm happy to say that this first issue easily met my high expectations.

*** (three of five stars)

No comments:

Post a Comment