Once & Future, Vol. 3: The Parliament of Magpies by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora & Tamra Bonvillain

Oooh, Bridgette with a sword on the cover, y’all!

Inside however, as in prior installments, good old Gran is more comfortable with a gun, using it to good, if horrifying, effect when the titular parliament of magpies comes calling, bearing ominous news. She immediately calls her grandson, the reluctantly heroic Duncan, who says he’ll call Rose who, since she’s standing right next to him, calls him out on the little pause he always makes before lying. Rose and Duncan, after their failed first date and subsequent misadventures, have gotten closer, you see. But are they actually dating? This conundrum leads to a conversation that made my semantic-loving heart near overflow with pleasure. /nerd

Rose’s initial divination finds nothing awry, so with Duncan’s car totaled, she drives him up to visit Gran the next day on New Year’s Eve. They decide to follow a lead to the Lancelot Arms, in hopes of uncovering what the treacherous Mary had been up to prior to summoning King Arthur. Their interview with the inhabitants is violently interrupted (I shrieked with horrified glee when I realized by whom,) forcing Rose to get even closer to the Story when she realizes that she’s unwilling to let Duncan imperil himself further by taking on more than two roles out of legend. Bridgette has to admire her logic, even as she worries as to what she’s getting another innocent into. The fewer who know about all this mystic stuff, the better, after all.

Thus, Rose is sent home afterwards to safety while Gran and Duncan head back to their own ancestral home in order to determine whom Mary used as her Lancelot for begetting Galahad. Things don’t go as anyone plans, as a government body steps out of the shadows to have a discussion with Rose, while Gran and Duncan find themselves confronting the unexpected in Otherworld. Their paths converge once more as they seek to prevent Galahad from finding the Grail and returning it to his unholy master, even as Mary tries desperately to protect her son.

And then fucking Bors. While there was humor to be found in the prime minister’s comeuppance, just the absolute shitstorm he introduced was infuriating. Which, in a story about British legend and metaphor, was both wildly topical and appropriate given what’s happening over in the UK these days.

I don’t think this installment of the series was quite as good as Vol 2 even though it was really great to see Rose get more involved with the Story, despite Bridgette’s fears. That said, this is a consistently solid comic book series, that deftly combines monster hunting with British legend and family drama in the most compelling and witty of ways. I also enjoyed the visual sleight of hand used in reintroducing Galahad: I totally missed it in the silhouetted panel and had to page back before slapping myself on the forehead for skimming over the art too quickly. I did wish that we’d learned a little more about the protector of the Grail tho. Perhaps in future books?

This is absolutely my frontrunner for the 2022 Hugo for Best Graphic Story now, tho I haven’t had a chance to read Die Vol 4 yet. I just can’t remember the last time a series was written so cinematically that I yelled at my screen as if I were watching an particularly engrossing TV show!

Once & Future, Vol. 3: The Parliament of Magpies by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora & Tamra Bonvillain was published July 27 2021 by Boom! Studios and is available from all good booksellers, including

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