Page 45 Review by Stephen
"I shall speak of love... and of hate. It is truly a marvel, but I tell you, hatred and love may live cramped together, crouching in the same heart."
True. Cramped and crouching: it can grow awfully crowded in there. Are we talking jealousies? The teenage me was a nightmare.
"There are many secret chambers in our hearts where love can hide and many battlements where hate can stand, watching for enemies."
We might still be talking jealousies: obsessively searching for and rooting out rivals. But we're not.
"There was once an age when love was honourable.
"Or so I've heard."
Was that a disclaimer?
Based on the 12th Century tales by Chrétien De Troyes, much of this may come as a bit a surprise. I've read a lot of complex courtly love, but this is not it. You may have read many Arthurian legends springing out from Sir Thomas Malory's much later Le Morte D'Arthur where it's all very valiant but this ain't that, neither. To be honest, the court consists of a right bunch of frivolous idiots.
We begin with a beautifully drawn bit of falconry, the first sentence's love and hate bisected by a panel border through the same image; once the hood is removed, the bird takes flight, soaring above the sorry figure of a knight who's had the stuffing knocked out of him, dripping blood as he and his horse retreat through a cave towards Camelot.
There he's greeted during the feast of Pentecost and immediately probed for gossip. They loved a good story, that lot. And they'll hear it by hook, crook or emotional blackmail.
Our wilted warrior is Sir Calogrenant who'd set out in search of adventure and found it at a fountain where he poured a little too much water over a magical stone, at which point the weather went bat-shit crazy. This is cleverly told on a sequential-art tapestry behind them as Hurricane Harold strikes, deer scatter, the trees are lashed by gales, rain and lightning, and the local landowner charges out on his steed with a great big lance which he introduces quite intrusively to Sir Calogrenant's stomach, then stabs at him a sword.
"Let me enter my complaint! Here!" Ouch. "And here!"
To be fair, even though his crops received a right battering, the lord does let the loser leave.
Vengeance is immediately called for at which point King Arthur wanders in or wakes up:
"What's this? An adventure?"
"For the whole court."
"Sounds jolly. Is it full of honour and so forth?"
Define honour. Alternatively: no, not so much.
Determined that the honour should be all his, Sir C's cousin, Sir Yvain, takes the reins of a more sturdy steed, receives directions from a cave-dwelling troll, finds the spring and - do you know? - he's not that frugal with the water, either. Even weatherman Michael Fish could have predicted what happens next. Understandably irate at what must now look like meteorological harassment...
"Who does my dukedom this discourtesy?"
... the lord lets loose once again but this time comes quite a cropper - as does Sir Yvain's horse when it's a little late on the final furlong in pursuit of the lord through a descending portcullis.
The lord is dead and Sir Yvain is trapped in his castle. Fortunately he is recognised by Lunette, maid to now-widowed Lady Laudine, as someone who once did her kindness and she fixes him up with an invisibility spell. Unfortunately that allows him to witness to Lady Laudine's heartfelt, inconsolable grief... and her radiant beauty. He only goes and falls in love, doesn't he?
We haven't even begun. Okay, we have begun. But we've barely begun.
But I think you might perceive that if - and I'm only saying "if" - Sir Yvain is going to win the hand or even the heart of Lady Laudine, Lunette is going have to think fast and Sir Yvain is going to have to be on his best behaviour from now on in.
But honestly...? He's not the brightest flame in fireplace, his time-keeping sucks and the waylaying lads back at camp Camelot really could do with growing up.
So far - unless I read this very wrong indeed - both Anderson and Offermann have played this mostly with their tongues firmly in their cheeks, but there are hearts involved, monsters to be fought, slaves to be liberated and other injustices whose their intricate legal and intellectual merits must be adjudicated upon by bludgeoning, skull-splitting fights.
Even if Anderson dots the script with anachronistic colloquialisms (Sir Yvain Oblivion: "It was just stupidity that kept me away from you that long year. I recognise my mistake - honest!") Offerman maintains the period feel throughout with a variety of castles, rows of tents and descents into briar-like woodland madness.
If you're in it for the fantastical you won't be disappointed, either: there is one hell of a lion / dragon death-match with a belter of a double-page spread as Sir Yvain first claps eyes on the ferocious, clawing beasts, followed by a flurry of dense, chaotic panels suggesting she might be aware of Gareth Hinds' BEOWULF.
I don't know if it's straight-faced enough for some fantasists, but we're constantly being asked this sort of fare, so here you go.