It's the fourth issue of the Knight and Squire mini-series and I'm depressed.
Depressed because there are only two more issues to go starring Cyril and Beryl, the UK's answer to Batman and Robin. I adore this book, just adore it.
Still, let's not dwell on the bad, it's just not British. Let's be happy that this issue we see the Squire and the Shrike have an awkward first date, the Knight face his dark side, meet American butler Hank Hackensacker and learn the background to Beryl and Cyril's teaming and how much they mean to one another.
Phew, and no mistake, guvnor.
But while this issue is packed, it's not crowded. Paul Cornell is an excellent writer, able to produce an elegant, inspired script that balances tussles with tenderness. Yes, there's a very British sensibility, but beyond that, there's a universality - these superhumans are more human than super. If you've ever been on a first date, the gaucheness of the Squire and the Shrike will strike a chord. If you've ever had to face up to your weaknesses, you'll know how Cyril feels here.
It's gladdening to see that our heroes aren't perfect - both Beryl and Cyril think it's perfectly OK to have thoroughly invaded the Shrike's privacy in order to ensure he's a suitable date. While not endorsing it, I see their point, but they certainly don't see the Shrike's ... mind, he does protest in a particularly oafish manner.
There are many incidental delights, but I'll avoid listing them in the hope you'll discover them for yourself. But keep an eye out for the dead-on newspaper headline heralding the death of the previous knight, and notice just what is causing a Ming vase to tumble to the ground.
Executing the sight gags, and a lot more besides, are guest creative Staz Johnson on layouts, and regular gentleman of the artboard Jimmy Broxton on finishes. The pairing works wonderfully well; there's a delicacy to the linework, a sweetness to the characters which invites you to root for them. And some great pictures of things being hit.
|See how the shadow evokes Beryl's mask? Clever that|
Working with Johnson and Broxton is colourist Guy Major, who captures the beauty of the English countryside, while not shying away from the eye-popping colours of the Shrike's costume. The juxtaposition of the two is strangely beautiful. Then there's letterer Dave Sharpe, who ensures the word balloons breathe in a commendable display of craftsmanship.
Topping the issue is another dramatic cover by Yanick Paquette, Michel Lacombe and Nathan Fairbairn, who deserve triple jam sandwiches and lashings of ginger pop for their efforts.
Please give this comic a try - you don't have to be British to like it!