Sunday, March 4, 2018

Merlin: Idylls of the King #2

Fantasy February and Magical March!
Merlin: Idylls of the King #2

Does this Merlin measure-up?

"Part II: Taken to the Sky”
Writer – R.A. Jones
Artist – Rob Davis
Letterer – Tim Eldere
Editor – Dan Danko
Editor-in-Chief – Chris Ulm
November 1992

I’ve said before that Merlin is my favorite of all the Arthurian characters, so perhaps I come down a bit hard on any kind of mucking about with his backstory that makes him appear more human or less imposing. That super critical eye is now going to be brought to bear on Adventure Comics Merlin: Idylls of the King mini-series by R. A. Jones.

Jones and artist Rob Davis would return to this same character in 2017 while working for Caliber comics in a title called Merlin: The Legend Begins, so there is definitely some enthusiasm between the two for the popular mage. This series came first though and even though it clocks in at only two issues, there is a lot going on. Pity we start at the ending as we have to pick up a whole bunch of things based upon extrapolations given lines tossed off by various characters.

Let’s start in on this tale, which begins several CENTURIES before Arthur and see what you think of this mess…

We’ll begin with this weird drawing of a black wolf that doesn’t little to bring us up to speed on all the things going on in this world, doubtless if a smattering of text boxes actually could. So the author had decided to begin our tale with Merlin’s dog, who is protecting Merlin from…

…this young witch known as Cinobar. Cinobar helped Merlin obtain a cosmic dose of magic power in exchange for his heart/emotions in a mystical ceremony that the audience saw (perhaps?) last issue. I wasn’t there for that, but I got the gist of it from the ongoing narrative. Cinobar want’s Merlin’s attention because…

...this primitive, spear-wielding Pict has shown up with a message form his druidic shaman, Gadosius. I like that we have a whole panel of Merlin going “hmmm”. There is something so…Looney Tunes-Bugs Bunny to that look that I almost expected an eyebrow wiggle. Why does Gadosius wants this challenge?

It is because of these two blonde-headed companions. Rhiannon, the woman, practiced witchcraft and brought the man, Tryon, to her in the midst of a thunderstorm. They are now falling in love with each other on the way to Stonehenge, which was the destination of choice by Tryon, for a reason known only to Merlin it seems. Now “heartless” Merlin is going to protect them from whatever Gadosius intends.

And by protect them I mean "leave them to frolic while telling each other how much they LURV each other and bath naked in a pool while he goes off with the only Pict warrior they see…

…ignoring these three Pict warriors who stay behind to take on the defenseless lovers"…

…That middle one looks a bit like a 1970's Cheech Marin.

Merlin arrives at Gadosius’s camp with an insult, thrown out as he hears the big mage talk about killing Tryon and the girl. Merlin is curious as to why the G-man wants the pair dead…

…so Gadosius reads my story synopsis too, but come to a more sinister conclusion about things. 

Merlin’s reactions is to laugh in his face because Merlin’s read the entire book it appears and KNOWS the ending.

Gadosius then does his trash-talking…

 …and the mystical battle begins.

Which is WAY less exciting than I anticipated, going in the mode of Doctor Druid’s top ten battles by having both combatants standing around naked on an ethereal plane. At least Merlin gets some weird deer antlers in the otherworld. And while they are standing around, they start to kick up a little wind too.

Finally though, Merlin has to “bring the battle to Gadosius,” which means to grapple him a bit both mentally and physically. Then he pulls the old “gaze into my eyes” bit…

…and Gadosius crumples over dead. His followers look a bit dismayed at this turn of events.

Merlin takes them over before leaving and disperses them. Cinobar wants to know how he killed Gadosius, which Merlin gives a sort of cryptic answer too, not really going into detail. I will surmise latter what this might mean.

But for now we’ve got trouble as the pair finds Rhiannon slumped against a tree trunk with a gash in her side pumping blood.

The girl tells of the Pict’s attack and how they carried off Tyron to (of all places) Stonehenge to be sacrificed. Merlin and Cinobar put together a litter and drag Rhiannon along with them. Cinobar keeps putting the screws to Merlin saying he’s heartless, which he is and she should know, being the one that cut it out last ish.

Upon making it to Stonehenge, the trio find the dead bodies of the Picts all tossed around willy-nilly and a glowing something expecting them…

…which ends up being Tyron, who is revealed to be one of god Lug’s angelic host. 

Appears Lug gets bored and sends down members of his host in human guise, so he can experience the emotions of humans. Thus, this would be why Gadosius, a servant of the god Lug, would have taken his own life upon learning that he meant to kill Tyron, one of Lug’s angelic host. Hmm. Okay. Good plot twist.

Tyron says goodbye to the dying Rhiannon, telling her that he truly loved her. They share one last kiss…

…and then when Cinobar comments that Merlin is unmoved by their emotional last kiss, the mage does this…

…which might seem like the ultimate dick move, but in setting Rhiannon on fire he has actually transformed her into an angel as well.

When approached about it by Tyron, he claims that he had no hand in the change, as if girls turned into angel-creatures all the time around these parts. The pair fly off…

…leaving Cinobar to hope that perhaps she has a shot at Merlin after all.

My thoughts on this are a bit mixed, but mostly positive. Could it have been better? Certainly. But was it adequate for a Merlin tale, given my high standards? Yeah, it kind of was. I like that Merlin’s motivations seem a bit cloudy. Characterizations of him like that tend to work the best. I enjoyed the rivalry with another wizard and while the actual toe-to-toe felt a bit underwhelming, the climax of that confrontation was an enjoyable mental puzzle left for the audience to figure out. I could have done without the dog and the lovers subplot, but I realize the need for their inclusion. I’m good with setting it so far in the past.

In short, I liked it. Not loved, mind you, but liked. An ongoing of this would be okay if the price was modest. Caliber’s book appears to be that, so I might seek it in discount bin for news if any of it holds promise. As for all of you, have a magical rest of your day.

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