I have always been a big fan of the Black Knight. Yeah, I fully realize that my preceding sentence are probably words that almost no comic book fans have ever uttered. But, there you are. As a kid, I loved medieval stories and I loved super heroes. Black Knight was a beautiful fusion of my two loves. It was in 1985 when Dane Whitman became a member of the Avengers with issue #252 that I became a huge fan of the character.
Dane Whitman is the current Black Knight. The first Black Knight was Sir Percy who fought for King Arthur. Sir Percy was gifted the Ebony Blade which Merlin forged from a meteorite. The Ebony Blade was passed down to the men in Sir Percy’s family. Each subsequent generation of men carried on the mantle of the Black Knight. Dane inherited the Ebony Blade from his Uncle, Nathan Garrett who was actually a villain who battled Iron Man.
The Ebony Blade is an enchanted weapon. It is indestructible, it can cut through anything, it can deflect energy and it can absorb energy. However, it all comes at a cost. The Ebony Blade is also cursed. This is a blood curse based on all the blood that the original Black Knight, Sir Percy, spilled. There are also times when the Ebony Blade will compel its wielder to do things. The way the curse manifests has been delivered in various different manners.
All right, I think that everyone now knows enough basic history of the Black Knight in order to enjoy this review. Now, this All New All Different Black Knight is refreshingly free from any pandering or unnecessary changes. Yup. We get good ol’ Dane Whitman. This all actually makes Dane a bit of a novelty item within the All New All Different Marvel Universe. This new direction for Dan has him inhabiting Weirdworld.
Never heard of Weirdworld prior to Secret Wars? Too bad. Weirdworld was a cool concept that debuted in Marvel Premier back in the late 1970’s. It was written by the always awesome Doug Moench with artwork by the iconic John Buscema. As most current readers are aware, the concept of Weirdworld was added to Battleworld during the events of Secret Wars. During Secret Wars, the Weirdworld tie-in comic focused on the adventures of Akron who was a cool 1970’s character created by the powerhouse duo of Roy Thomas and John Buscema.
So, here we have two things that I dig: Weirdworld and the Black Knight. I have no idea how these two things are going to go together. Will it be as delicious as peanut butter and jelly or as disgusting as mayonnaise and chocolate? Let’s find out!
Words: Frank Tieri
Art: Luca Pizzari
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Dane giving a two page re-cap of his entire back story which I already summarized for you in the beginning of this review. We cut to the present with Black Knight and his army of New Avalon battling some mystical reptilian soldiers. Dane thinks how fighting is all that ever happens on Weirdworld. Dan thinks how he is now the rule of this part of Weirdworld that he has renamed New Avalon. That the creatures they are fighting are called the Fangs of the Serpent.
Dane thinks how the Fangs of the Serpent is a mysterious group and that they know nothing about them. We see the army of New Avalon triumph over the Fangs of the Serpent soldiers. Dane kills the last one. We see the bodies of all the reptilian soldiers turn to ash and blow away. Dane mentions how the Fangs of the Serpent are so mysterious that their bodies disappear once they are killed.
Suddenly, two fire-breathing rock trolls appear on the scene and attack Black Knight and his soldiers. One of Black Knight’s soldiers, Bolten, steps in front of Dane to shield him from the blasts of fire. Dane tells Bolten that he is going to get himself killed. Dane tells Bolten to stand behind him. Dane then says it is time to let the Ebony Blade do its thing. The Ebony Blade then absorbs the fire from the rock trolls and then blasts it back at both of them. The trolls fall to the ground in defeat.
Dane comments “But really…fire-breathing rock trolls? Because of course regular rock trolls just don’t cut it around here.” (Ha! Good line. And it gets over the insanity of Weirdworld.) Alkyra Thash appears on the scene. Alkyra is Dane’s “Spear.” The Spear is the King’s Captain of the Guard. We learn that Bolten is Dane’s “Shield.” The Shield is the King’s Bodyguard. We also learnt that Alkyra and Bolten hate each other. Bolten blames Alkyra for letting the trolls get this close to the King. And Alkyra blames Bolten for being the Shield who had to be rescued by his King. Bolten then calls out Alkyra for still not having tracked down and captured Caden Tar. Bolten comments that Alkyra might just be waiting for Caden Tar to amass an army and come back to reclaim New Avalon. Alkyra and Bolten then draw swords on each other. Dane steps in the middle and say that both have earned a gold star for the day and for both of them to stand down and play nice.
Dane says that the Fangs of the Serpent and Caden Tar pale in comparison to a much larger threat that is out there. Dane says that they must be prepared for the invaders that he is expecting to appear soon. Dane then tells Bolten and Alkyra to just call him “Dane” instead of “My Lord.” Bolten acquiesces by calling Dane “Lord Dane” and Alkyra calls Dane “Lord Whitman.” Suddenly, soldier arrives and tells Dane that the have found “another one.”
We cut to Black Knight and his army trudging through the forest. Some weird octopus-like fairies creatures attack them. They quickly dispatch the creatures. Black Knight narrates how Weirdworld is like Wonderland written by Quentin Tarantino. (Great description.) That if you tilt the universe, whatever falls out ends up in Weirdworld. This is why Black Knight routinely sends his men on these scouting missions. To see if some portal or wormhole has dumped something into Weirdworld.
We see Black Knight and his army arrive at a cliff that has a WWII German U-boat on it. They search the U-boat. It appears to have already been scavenged. They do find a box with “US Army” labeled on it. Inside is a Captain America pin, a US army manual and a Betty Paige pin-up magazine.
We cut to Black Knight’s castle. Dane is in a room where he stores all the items that they find during their scouting missions of Weirdworld. We see that the entire narration of the past scene was Dane recording himself on an old 1980’s tape recorder. Dane calls this room his own personal Weirdworld lost and found collection. We see a Reservoir Dogs poster, an American flag from the Revolutionary War era, as Star Wars pinball machine, a pirate flag, a phonogram, an issue of the Daily Bugle with a headline about Spider-Man’s first appearance, a reward poster for the Two-Gun Kid and H.E.R.B.I.E!!! (Hell yeah!!)
Dane says that these objects help him to not forget that he is so far from home and that he can never go back even if he wanted to. Dane ends his recording. Suddenly, the Ebony Blade begins to glow red. Dane picks up the sword. The spirit of Sir Percy appears. Sir Percy says that Dane would burn all the objects in this room in order to keep the Ebony Blade. It is the only object that truly matters. Dane says for Sir Percy to give it a rest. That Sir Percy has been on him since he arrived at Weirdworld. Sir Percy says that Dane never felt the need to record and chronicle his life before. That Dane, like those before him, is succumbing to the power of the Ebony Blade.
We flashback to three months earlier with Black Knight’s army capturing King Zaltin Tar. We see that Prince Caden Tar managed to escape. We see the Black Knight chop off King Tar’s head. The soldiers all chant “All hail King Dane Whitman. All hail the new king!”
We cut back to the present. Dane says that he did what was necessary. That the blade had nothing to do with it. Sir Percy does not believe Dane. Bolten then enters and says that he heard someone else’s voice talking to Dane. Sir Percy disappears. Dane says he was just talking to himself. Suddenly, a soldier enters and says that the invaders that Black Knight has been warning them about are here.
Black Knight puts on his helmet and orders for his army to assemble. That if his old friends are coming for him then he is most certainly not going to go quietly. End of issue.
The Good: Black Knight #1 was a cool read. Frank Tieri deserves a ton of credit for pulling off all the required tasks of a debut issue in order to pull readers into the story and give them a reason why this title should exist, what differentiates it from the other super hero titles on the market and why the reader should continue to purchase the title. From a purely technical standpoint, Tieri delivers an excellently constructed debut issue. Tieri quickly establishes the main character, present the reader with a well-developed setting, introduces several supporting characters and installs multiple plot lines. That is so much harder to do than it sounds. That is why many writers fail when attempting to craft a proper debut issue for a new title.
What is so impressive is how Tieri is able to quickly differentiate the Black Knight from all of the other super hero comics crowding the stands. Tieri is able to give this title a clear identity, convey to the reader the mission statement, what the reader can expect with this title and a reason to continue to purchase this title. Tieri effectively conveys to the reader how unique Black Knight is going to be. This title is nothing like any of the other super hero titles that Marvel or DC publishes. This title offers a story that is going to be unpredictable, a glorious mash-up of multiple genres and nearly unlimited potential with the type of stories and directions that Tieri can decide to pursue.
Tieri clearly lets reader know that Black Knight’s mission statement is going to be delivering stories that place an emphasis on mystery, action and adventure. That this is what the reader can expect on a monthly basis and this is why the reader wants to support this title. The fact that this title blends so many different genres together into one intriguing concoction means that this title should have mass appeal with a wide range of readers.
Tieri covers all of his bases with this debut issue. The reader gets treated to plenty of solid character work. Dane is a well-developed lead character. I like that Dane is a conflicted character who is carrying a heavy burden as a legacy hero. The reader gets an excellent sense for Dane’s character. Tieri manages to add enough complexity to Dane’s character by having him be a good man at his basic core but having many failings and flaws that he must struggle with in his desire to live up to his own vision of a perfect hero. Dane is definitely a character that reader’s can easily identify and relate to. Dane has a bit of an everyman feel to his personality that should give him mass appeal.
Tieri introduces a couple of supporting characters in Bolten the Shield and Alkyra the Spear. Neither character gets a ton of panel time, but Tieri gives them just enough to pique the reader’s interest in both supporting characters. I like that Tieri generated some quality friction between Bolten and Alkyra in short order. A little heat between the supporting cast always places the main character in interesting situation and helps to spice up any story. I am certainly looking forward to learning more about both Bolten and Alkyra as Tieri continues to give them more panel time and flesh out their characters. Tieri did nail the chemistry that exists between Dane, Bolten and Alkyra. I think there is so much potential with these three characters and how they interact with each other.
The reader is also introduced to Sir Percy. I like that Tieri showed the reader that Sir Percy is not simply a hallucination and that Dane is losing his mind. By having Bolten hear Sir Percy’s voice Tieri lets the reader know that the spirit of Sir Percy is real and that there will be a supernatural presence in this story. I much prefer the classic route that Sir Percy is an actual spirit rather than having Tieri try to make Dane “modern” and “edgy” by having Sir Percy simply being a hallucination produced by Dane’s mental instability.
Then there is the Ebony Blade. Make no mistake, this sword is as much of a character as any of the people are in this story. Tieri does a nice job hinting at the Blood Curse that inhabits the Ebony Blade. What I enjoyed is that Tieri uses the flashback scene with Black Knight killing King Tar as a way to show how the Ebony Blade can control its wielder rather than just telling the reader through boring exposition from Sir Percy. This approach is more nuanced and has far more impact on the reader. The reader gets a clear sense of the pull that the Ebony Blade is placing upon Dane’s soul. The curse of the Ebony Blade also gives Dane an internal conflict that he must deal with in addition to the numerous external conflicts that Tieri presents to Dane.
Of course, the star of Black Knight might not even be the titular character. It may be the setting: Weirdworld. Indeed, Weirdworld is as much of a character as anyone else in this story. Weirdworld is the heart of this story. Every creature, every person and every action all seem to be limbs that sprout from the tree trunk that is Weirdworld. Weirdworld plays a similar role as the island did in Lost.
Tieri wastes no time and performs some quality world building in establishing and fleshing out Weirdworld in this issue. Weirdworld is such a rich and fascinating setting. Tieri delivers a much and detailed world that immediately captures the reader’s attention and imagination. Weirdworld is one of those rare setting where literally anything feels possible. This setting provides Tieri with a plot device that has nearly unlimited potential for endless stories.
Weirdworld is one of those special plot devices that allows the writer to pull from literally any genre. Black Knight #1 alone is a mix of Sci Fi, Super Hero, Medieval and Fantasy. The cool aspect of Weirdworld is that it allows the writer to pull from so many different genres and meld them together in a seamless and organic fashion. I fully expect that Tieri is going to have a lot of fun as a writer utilizing Weirdworld to its fullest extent.
A good example the endless possibilities that Weirdworld presents is the scene where Dane is in his room where he keeps all the items that his scouts have uncovered while searching Weirdworld. I mean, c’mon! We got to see H.E.R.B.I.E.! The lovable robot member of the Fantastic Four from their old 1970’s cartoon! That scene was stuffed full of Easter Eggs. Tieri will be able to pull from any point in Marvel’s history and from any continuity that he so desires. I definitely am looking forward to more Easter Eggs in upcoming issues.
Tieri whips up some quality dialogue. Dane, Bolten and Alkyra all have nice external voices. The dialogue also has a pleasant flow and comes across quite natural.
I love the overall tone of Black Knight #1. Tieri manages to deliver such a well-balanced issue. We get humorous scenes like when the fire-breathing rock trolls appear on the scene as well as much darker and more serious scenes like when Dane kills King Tar. The impressive part is that these sharply different tones all work together in such a pleasant and organic fashion. This helps to give the story far more depth and complexity.
Black Knight #1 is a well structured issue. The transitions are well done. The scenes naturally flow into each other as each scene builds logically toward the next scene. Black Knight #1 is a strongly plotted issue. This is both a complex read and also a delightfully compressed read. Yes! No dreaded decompression is to be found in this issue unlike so many other comics that seem full of filler. Instead, Tieri installs multiple plot lines in just one issue!
First, Tieri is able to concisely and effectively deliver Black Knight’s history in just two pages! Yes, a writer who realizes that it is not necessary to burn an entire issue just introducing the main character’s past to the reader. Refreshing. After bringing the reader up to speed on the Black Knight’s history, Tieri hits the ground running and does not look back. Seriously. Tieri systematically installed multiple plot lines and teases several mysteries.
We get the Fangs of the Serpent mystery, the Prince Caden Tar plot line, the Uncanny Avengers plot line, the Ebony Blade and its power over Dane plot line and, finally, the plot line involving why Black Knight is in Weirdworld and why he cannot leave. Whew! That is a ton of plot lines and quiet a few mysteries, too. These plot lines also present external conflicts and internal conflict for Dane to deal with in upcoming issues.
That is a ton of ground to cover in just one issue! And Tieri pulls it off without ever making this issue feel too crammed or scatterbrained. The pacing to Black Knight #1 is perfect. Tieri moves the story along with a clear purpose in mind. Each plot line organically sprouts forth and all build on top of each other in order to create a complex tapestry of plot lines that come together to create a deep and substantive story. There is so much content for the reader to chew on and digest in this issue.
And best of all, Tieri nails this issue with a kick-ass hook ending. Tieri teased the Avengers in the beginning of the issue and then showed them at the end. That is good technical writing. This is a strong hook ending that immediately gets the reader excited to come back for the next issue. The reader is left on the edge of their seat wondering why the Avengers would be hunting down their former teammate and why Dane would be ready for an all out fight with his old teammates.
The excellent plotting and pacing come together to create an issue that has such a pleasant flow to it. The scenes transition seamlessly to the next one. There is never a slow or dull moment at all in this issue. Do not think that because Tieri was busy performing world building, character work and installing mysteries that he would forget about the action. To be sure, Black Knight #1 has plenty of fighting to satisfy most action junkies.
All of this excellent work by Tieri all leads down to the most important goal of a debut issue of a new title. That is to get the reader invested in the story. If the reader is never invested in the characters or the plot lines or the setting then there is no reason for that reader to ever come back for the next issue. There is no reason for that reader to add the new title to their pull list. Tieri succeeds in this all important task. By the end of Black Knight #1, the reader is invested in the characters, the plot lines and Weirdworld itself. I cared about what was going to happen next. And that is something that cannot be said for several of the debut issues for Marvel’s All New All Different titles.
Luca Pizzeria provides some solid artwork. I will admit that Pizzeria’s art is not my favorite style of art. Having said that, Pizzeria’s art is a good match for the strange and bizarre setting of Weirdworld. I also dig that Pizzeria’s artwork has that 1970’s vibe to it. And that is cool since Weirdworld has its roots in the 1970’s. Another interesting observation is that Pizzeria’s style reminds me of John Buscema. That is cool since John Buscema was the artist for the original Weirdworld story back in the 1970’s.
The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.
Overall: Black Knight #1 was an excellent read. Tieri came out firing on all cylinders with this issue and did not let up until the very last page. Black Knight #1 is an action and adventure title that stands out and separates itself from all of the other titles from Marvel and DC that are flooding the market. This title offers the reader excellent character work, good plotting and great action. Black Knight #1 is a well-balanced read that offers something for just about everyone. Black Knight is absolutely a title that is worth the price of admission. Stop reading this review and go to your comic book store. Now. Put this issue in your grubby paws and then enjoy.