Writer Wolf (Unbeatable: Hotter than Hell, 2010, etc.), debut illustrator Jimenez, and debut colorist Cabellé ingeniously combine Arthurian legend and epic space opera in a new graphic novel.
Young Cat is sent to an orphanage after her father inexplicably attempts to drown her. Thereafter, her story doesn’t get much happier, as her fellow orphans mercilessly bully her. She eventually snaps and pummels the other children, exhibiting innate fighting prowess while doing so. Enter the wizard Merlin, who snatches her away from the orphanage in order to train her with the Protectors of the Sword, a warrior guild devoted to keeping Excalibur safe after the death of King Arthur. Cat eventually proves herself as Excalibur’s Keeper, destined to wield the weapon until the emergence of the rightful king. However, when she claims the weapon, it upsets a demonic underground being who sends his minions to stop her. The story goes on to turn tropes of the Arthurian legend on their heads in plot twists involving spacecraft, mecha-suited warriors, and the lost city of Atlantis. Cat is aided by Heinz, her only friend from the orphanage, who grows from a pudgy, scrappy child into a brawny love interest. What could have been a random hodgepodge of genre tropes instead becomes a unique alternative history of Excalibur. However, Wolf doesn’t sketch Cat’s psyche beyond her sadness and her outsized fighting abilities, which results in some disorienting character beats: she slaughters most of the men she grew up with on Merlin’s command, for example, yet experiences no apparent emotional fallout. The author spends a little more time on Heinz, who charmingly spends the entire book wearing a flowered purple hat—a gift from his dead father. Generally, though, characterization takes a back seat to plot movement and extended battle sequences. Jimenez and Cabellé produce some gorgeous, dynamic pages; high points include a scene involving monsters interrupting a farmer’s peaceful morning and a clever “training montage” of Cat fighting across multiple panels, each set in a different season. The book’s high-quality, glossy paper allows Cabellé’s broad color spectrum to shine.
A fantastical graphic novel with superlative artwork and inventive plot devices that’s somewhat marred by inadequate characterization.