"Unholy Grail #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by AfterShock Comics
Written by Cullen Bunn
Illustrated by Mirko Colak
2017, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on July 5th, 2017
The story of King Arthur has seen many iterations over the years. It's been adapted into movies and television shows, both live-action and animated, and several other mediums. It's a classic. But what if it was all a lie? What if there was something far more sinister in King Arthur's rise to power? That's what Unholy Grail looks to uncover and it's filled with blood, gore, and monsters.
Unholy Grail is pitched as a Lovecraftian take on the Arthurian legend. If that doesn't sell you, nothing will. The book drops you right into chaos. The opening pages feature a horrific field filled with the remnants of a battle. Bodies lie everywhere, some stabbed through with swords; others pierced with arrows. Blood soaks into the soil.
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Artist Mirko Colak does a brilliant job here. The details are exquisite and instantly cement a feeling of hopelessness. This is a land that has been ripped apart. Colak excels at the little things, such as a crow picking at a dripping eyeball in the foreground of the shot, that just makes you cringe. These subtleties come up repeatedly throughout the book, edging the scares just over the edge. There are several moments that are rather unsettling and it works well with the overall tone.
Merlin plays a central role in Unholy Grail. He's strong and confident yet wiry and untrustworthy. There's something about him that makes you second guess his true intentions and his actions certainly warrant that. He's the kind of guy that you always keep an eye on when he enters a room, just in case he tries to pull a fast one. Merlin is responsible for two of the most disturbing panels in the issue. It's remarkable that what makes them so creepy are the small details that are a little off. It's that little push that sends a shiver down your spine and takes the comic to another level.
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The issue is bookended by two sequences in the future showing the ruins of this once great kingdom. The colors are dark and grim, filled with dread. This contrasts nicely with the bright tones of the scenes set in the past. The world is full of hope here and anything is possible. It hasn't yet fallen into this dour pool of foreboding.
Unholy Grail fires on all cylinders. It's got a great hook, dynamite art, and did I mention it's written by Cullen Bunn? Yeah, that should have been enough right there. Seeing a monster-infused version of the King Arthur story helmed by Bunn is worth the price of admission alone. You don't have to be familiar with the story to enjoy it either. It stands on its own as a dark fantasy story.