Imagination and history converge in this graphic-novel mashup of Beowulf and El Cid.
In this third volume, young Beowulf and Grendel are stranded in Spain, wanting to return to their home, Daneland. The pair meets up with a duo of ne’er-do-wells who want human Beowulf and horned Grendel to impersonate the god Mithras and his bull Tauro to swindle devout pilgrims. Meanwhile, in another region of Spain, knight Rodrigo Díaz makes a split-second decision that results in his exile. The narratives of Rodrigo and Beowulf slowly entwine when Rodrigo, now christened El Cid, wages a battle against Moor Ibn Yusuf. As the narratives merge, antics ensue, although mostly for Beowulf and Grendel; Rodrigo’s account is more sedate and serious. New historical characters are introduced, most notably Boudi, a 9-year-old imagining of first-century Queen Boudica. The addition of El Cid into the series is interesting but never seems to jell with it, the storyline leaning heavily on exposition and curbing action until close to the conclusion. Somewhat discordant with the visually vibrant illustrations, this volume is text-heavy, making this a bit of a challenge for young readers seeking a one-sitting romp. Beowulf, Boudi, and Rodrigo are all white, but this medieval Spain is appropriately multicultural. Pages of thought-provoking backmatter include a brief biography of Boudica, a history of Mithras, and a detailed explanation of El Cid.
Something of a stumble in an otherwise fun series. (maps, key terms, character glossary, fun facts, bibliography) (Graphic fantasy. 7-11)