Comic Review – Le Morte D’Arthur Volume 1: The Coming of the King

Le Morte D’Arthur Volume 1: The Coming of the King

By John Matthews, Will Sweeney Thomas Malory

Published by SelfMadeHero 

The epic legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table is re-imagined here as a visually stunning graphic novel adapted by John Matthews and illustrated by Will Sweeney. This faithful reworking of Sir Thomas Malory’s chivalric masterpiece introduces the young Arthur and charts his rise to power as King of Britain and the formation of his Knights of the Round Table. Aided by Merlin, Arthur must unite the kingdoms of Britain under his banner and take on adventures that will take him closer to his destiny and a danger caused by those he loves and trusts most.

The story of King Arthur was the first legend, with Robin Hood coming in a close second, I remember ever being taught. Considering at school I had the attention span of a corpse there was something about the tales that hooked me.  The Arthurian legend has always retained a  timeless charm in its story of a boy who pulled the sword from the stone and became king of England. The Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Excalibur, Camelot, Guinevere and Lancelot. Whenever you hear these words you can’t help but conjure up images of  bravery, honor and adventure.

Over the years I have seen many adaptations of the legend and no matter how good or bad the adaptation is the core story has remained untarnished, in my mind.

This was the main reason I jumped at the comic adaptation of Le Morte D’Arthur.

After I had got to the halfway mark of the book it became clear to me how much of the stories surrounding King Arthur I was oblivious too. Here, within the pages of this adaptation, we see much more of the knights and their adventures. Also Arthur does not come across as the great and noble king many other interpretations would have you believe. In these early tales to put it bluntly Arthur comes across as a bit of an ass who would be lost without Merlin by his side. So when we eventually see Merlin tricked and betrayed my Morgana you realise just how much trouble Arthur is in without his trusted companion and nursemaid. By the end of this first volume we do see an Arthur that is much more in keeping with the legendary king of England we all remember. However by the end of the volume we learn King Arthur’s problems are only just beginning.

In the opening pages we are warned that this a direct adaptation from the original source material and as such may be difficult to interpret. I did struggle in the early part of this first volume as my mind was set that this was one story I was reading. However I found that looking at the work as an anthology with Arthur being the thread that ties it all together helped me a great deal and made the second half of the book a much more enjoyable read.  It’s to the credit of the writer, John Matthews  that he acknowledges this in his introduction and makes no apologies for not changing the original work too much. Nor should he as the idea is to give people as faithful a retelling of the original source material as possible. I would suggest anyone picking up this book make sure they read John’s introduction as it’s a great insight into the way he approached the adaptation.

The art, from Will Sweeney, is crisp, clear and pulls no punches in showing the violence of Arthur’s time. There is the heavy use of a single color throughout the book, which was an interesting choice. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked this but after a while it felt natural and gave the story the feeling of being one epic flashback. It’s a mechanic that works well here.

Whether you’re new to the Arthurian legends or a fan of old would I recommend you check out Le Morte D’Arthur. There’s a richness to both art and the writing in this adaptation that breathes new life into the story the once and future king and his knights.

I look forward to reading volume 2.

You can find out more about the comic adaptation here.

Rating: 4/5

GS Reviewer: Nuge

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