By: Paul Cornell (story), Diógenes Neves & Robson Rocha (pencils), Oclair Albert & Julio Ferreira (inks), Marcelo Maiolo (colors)

The Story: I left my love in Avalon…something, something…And so I’ll travel on to Avalon.

The Review: Now that our “heroes” have proven capable of amazing feats as a team, the next step is seeing if they can go any bigger and if they keep themselves together long enough to do it.  As it stands, they came together by necessity, and arguably only necessity keeps them together.  Yet there seems more at work in their union; considering how drastically different each one’s motives and background are, there must be some great destiny at the end of their collective road.

And does it get any greater than Camelot?  There’s no way to tell even if the Knights succeed in recovering Merlin’s soul, whether that means the kingdom of Alba Sarum will really be considered the newest incarnation of the fabled city  As a concept, Camelot doesn’t seem to be something which someone can create or even earn.  It’s a bit like performance; you rarely know what you did to resonate with the audience, and when you do, it doesn’t work.

All this means is that even if the mission goes off as planned, the possibility for tragedy remains high.  There’s more to the dual princesses’ goal of achieving Camelot status than mere glory.  Of all people, Etrigan hints at the emotional dimension to this quest first: “…the princesses are betrothed…  But they won’t marry until their city is declared to be ‘The New Camelot.’”  It’s a brilliant twist, actually.  Camelot is meant to stand for “what is best in people,” the height of virtue and understanding.  It’s a poetic piece of commentary that the princesses feel their marriage is doomed unless it takes place in such blessed circumstances.

At any rate, the chances of a happy ending are slim.  To save Merlin, the Knights must go to Avalon, from which “nobody has ever returned,” and as of late, we’ve been given a lot of clues that the legendary isle is a pretty wacky place.  Even Lucifer calls it “an abomination to all the afterlifes,” indicating that Avalon is a place apart and unanswerable to either Heaven or Hell.  Yet if Avalon stands apart from those realms, it must have a role of its own, which Xanadu describes vaguely as “where the glorious are permitted to continue life after life, or so they say.”

As always, Cornell does good, if quiet, character work.  The princesses’ early-page recap of each Knight makes for a perfect jumping-on point for anyone wanting to give the title a shot, but they also reveal little tidbits for devoted fans to mull on.  We learn Al Jabr is a mere pseudonym (“‘The Numbers’,” Alba translates), and that both Exoristos and Horsewoman have prices on their heads.  We still have frustratingly little info on Horsewoman, although some of it may come to light quite soon; it turns out Vanguard (Ystin’s winged steed) is pretty good at gathering intel.

Perhaps Neves ultra-detailed style makes it so that drawing an entire issue in a timely manner is not feasible, but I wish he would.  The moment Rocha takes over, the lines grow unpleasantly sloppy, in some spots looking like he just blotted ink on the page.  He also doesn’t bring nearly the depth and perspective Neves does, making his pages look rough, flat, and unfinished.  On the other hand, he makes Neves’ work look all the better, as Neves grows more adept at emotional expression with each issue.

Conclusion: A solid set-up issue.  None of the usual sword-and-sorcery craziness you’ve gotten used to, but you learn a lot to keep your mind occupied and interested for the next arc.

Grade: B

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – Anyone know which “great Goth king” Xanadu was referring to when she spoke of people making spiritual journeys to Avalon?