Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Mirko Colak
Colorist: Maria Santaolalla
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Guy Ritchie and Charlie Hunnam aren’t the only ones in 2017 to tackle the King Arthur mythos. Yet whereas the recent Warner Bros. movie offered a more action-packed and swashbuckler take on the iconic story, the new comic from Aftershock is an entirely different and darker interpretation.
In “Unholy Grail,” writer Cullen Bunn offers a more bleak look at the world of Camelot and the events surrounding Arthur’s rise to power. Here, Merlin is not the wise Gandalf-type figure whom he’s often portrayed as, but rather a dark and menacing sorcerer skeptical of Arthur becoming King. Arthur’s ascension to power is marked by bloodshed and war, as the kingdom he inherits is more akin to a wasteland than a fantasy setting. And this issue is just the tip of the iceberg.
If there’s anyone who could produce a book that counters everything about the traditional view of the King Arthur legend, it’s Aftershock. In the past few months alone, they’ve put out comics about crime, artificial intelligence and even the Antichrist. Like the best of indie publishers, the company’s editors and creators are genuinely taking the medium to new heights.
Coinciding with Bunn’s dark world-building, artist Mirko Colak and colorist Maria Santaolalla create a beautifully grim and gory aesthetic. Utilizing double-page spreads that capture the sheer brutality of medieval Camelot, this team knows exactly how to deliver the perfect shock value (pun intended). “Unholy Grail” might not be the next blockbuster movie adaptation of King Arthur, but it sure does make for an excellent horror comic that’s as brutal and engrossing as one could imagine. Pick it up and be prepared to never think of Excalibur in the same way again.
-Kevin Schaefer for Ultimate Comics