By: Paul Cornell (writer), Jimmy Broxton (artist), Guy Major (colorist)

The Story: The end is near for Jarvis Poker, British Joker, and Knight and Squire are determined to make it worthwhile.

The Review: It’s been fun reading the madcap romps of Britain’s dynamic duo among its unashamedly whacked-out world of heroes and villains, but this story has so far lacked a sense of direction.  Each issue is largely self-contained, with few events having much of an impact on the next story in line.  Considering the finite nature of a miniseries, it’s important Knight and Squire make a statement for its characters before disappearing into publishing limbo.

This issue reveals that Cornell has been doing just that all along, beneath the surface of the series’ self-deprecating humor.  In previous issues, we’ve seen how Knight and Squire truly are the preeminent heroes of Britain, facing and taking down the most dastardly foes the nation has to offer.  The comedy comes from how small scale these threats really turn out to be, and how both sides, good and evil, value civility above all else in their fantastic doings.

But as Jarvis Poker’s melancholy, twelfth-hour reflections show, there’s a bittersweet taste to the laughs.  Because small as the scale is for British super-crime and its heroic responses, these things are still distinctly theirs, and they take incredible pride in their peculiar culture.  That’s why the appearance of the original Joker feels so invasive.  It’s as if Cornell has been soaking you for so long in how things must be done in this series’ universe that the injection of born-and-bred American character comes off foreign and—you have to admit—ugly.

In a way, it’s as much of a statement on American superheroes and villains.  Cornell writes a brilliant Joker, who is not only crazed and abominable, but very, very purposeful about how he channels those qualities.  At the same time, there’s an inherent disrespect of order and love of chaos in his personality, an exaggeration on American values of freedom and individualism.  Hence the contrast between Jarvis’ “agreement” with Knight and Squire on his meticulously plotted crime of the century, and Joker’s sudden, explosive entrance and spontaneous declaration of war on all British villains and heroes.

What I’m starting to realize is that Cornell set out to create a British comic book, and he has done that completely.  Knight and Squire can’t really be held to the same expectations as your average comic on the stands because it simply doesn’t operate the same way.  To enjoy it, you just have to accept the thoughtful nature of the characters, and their reluctance to do anything without thinking it through first, as part of the series’ culture.

Broxton has a very distinctive style that would be unpalatable for most comics, but ideal for this series.  It’s not very flashy, and at times looks cartoony, but the details really start to pop out the tighter the panel gets on the characters.  When you really examine the art—the way Broxton lays out the panel and blocks the characters—you really start to realize how much thought and attention is going into it.  Guy Major’s colors are bold on the characters, but neutralize on the settings, almost as if the heroes and villains themselves offer color to their world.

Conclusion: The series is very specific about what it wants to be: more cerebral than action-driven.  As a cultural, critical, metafictional piece, it’s excellent, but don’t expect much in the way of brawling, energy beams, or bombs.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen