Writer: Robert Napton
Publisher: Image/Top Cow
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
God damn it, why does everything I love in this world die? Yeah, I know this gorgeously painted homage to modern magic is called the SON OF MERLIN, but son-of-a-bitch it pissed me off when the Big M shuffled off his mortal coil half-way through the issue.
From page 1, Merlin exudes copious amounts of mystical bad assery. From looks to demeanor, I want more of Napton’s take on Arthur’s apothecary in modern times. Gone are Merlin’s traditional robes and Alan Moore crazy beard, he not only looks like “the most interesting man in the world” draped in Brooks Brothers, he IS the most interesting man in the world.
Napton drops us head first into the age old Arthurian feud that crossed the pond from merry ole’ England to the city that never sleeps, or tolerates outsiders (especially people from New Jersey), New York City. Zid’s visuals do the heavy lifting of interest entrapment as nary a word is spoken on the first few pages, but tell the tale of time passed perfectly.
Once Merlin does begin to speak; we realize this ain’t no cutesy Harry Potter magic at play here. From incantations to their ultimate effect, this magic is powered by pure testosterone. Not to gush over Zid’s visuals too much, the first time Merlin blows open a wall of bricks to rescue Lady Guinevere from her chains in an abandoned warehouse my jaw dropped.
Despite the chains, Gwen is no typical damsel in distress. She is Merlin’s “My Girl Friday,” assisting him to keep his magic and some coveted artifacts that feed all magical power away from another Arthurian bad girl Morgana le Fay. Issue one’s climax between Morgana and Merlin is delight, her evil is eminently transparent. The panels contain as much energy as they do originality with Zid literally thinking outside the panel box. Her goal is to not just put Merlin in the ground, but to also get the book that contains his power. She only succeeds on one point.
I can’t believe Merlin is completely dead, but for now that is the pervasive perception.
The falling action of this issue brings us to our true protagonist Simon Ambrose, a physicist trying to crack America’s power problems through fusion energy. Oh, I should also mention he’s Merlin’s illegitimate son.
Merlin’s book of power eventually (and magically) appears to Simon and we learn how a rationale mind simply can’t accept the irrational. As Simon tries to open the book, burn it, hurl it out a window, and it keeps on keeping on, we see a man of science slowly lose his mind. Eventually Gwen finds Simon and explains the situation about his illegitimacy and how he must now carry forward this ancient battle between good and evil. Does he believe her, or have one iota of interest in tracking down all the magical artifacts? Hells no he doesn’t believe her, until Morgana’s magical minions come to steal away Simon’s artifact birthright.
SON OF MERLIN is perfect melding of lore and modern sensibilities. The harmonious nature between science and faith. And it’s also the culmination of a great idea, finding a great artist to bring it to life.
For anyone that felt this book took too long to get to market keep in mind a few things: One, Topcow announced the book when it was still being worked on. Two, art like this doesn’t come quickly, there’s nary a panel without background and everything is truly truly beautiful. Third, I have confirmation that all five issues of arc one are in the bag, so expect delivery to come like clockwork over the next few months. I know I’ll be waiting.