Be warned, American readers: if you’re not a fan of British humor and/or culture, you may want to steer clear of Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton’s Knight and Squire #1.
That said, if you’ve enjoyed the Knight and Squire characters in the run of Grant Morrison on the Bat-books, chances are you’ll enjoy this next step in their tale. Opening this book, it’s not at all what I had expected. Taking place almost entirely inside The Time in a Bottle pub, a superhero bar with a powerful truce magic that allows heroes and villains to congregate without confrontation, Knight and Squire is a whimsical collection of British comedy and an engaging cast of bizarre characters.
For those not up on their Monty Python or Fawlty Towers, Cornell provides an equally humorous glossary at the tail end of the book, explaining certain terminology and references that American readers might not pick up on. While usually I’d demean such an addition as degrading the comedy, Cornell writes it in a way that is in keeping with the tone of the book.
As is true with a lot of British storytelling, to summarize the plot of Knight and Squire #1 doesn’t do justice to the book as a whole. At its basic, the story is that of an off-his-rocker patron of The Time in a Bottle disrupting the truce magic that keeps all the heroes and villains complacent within its walls. But more than that, it’s a hilarious exploration of its characters, from the titular Knight and Squire to the bizarre British version of The Joker and even the United States’ own Wildcat. In a wonderful touch, Cornell makes a great case of British moderation. No one in costume, on either side of the law, is really that overtly into it. Jarvis Poker, the British Joker, even says “I just can’t bring myself to commit crimes. Too dreary for me.” Knight and Squire is chock full of little jewels like that, making it, without a doubt, the freshest breath of air in American superhero comics in quite some time.
Jimmy Broxton aids Cornell, creating a highly stylized visual world that is heavy on character variety and vibrant emotion. He uses a nice mix of heavy ink lines, classic cartooning, and mainstream superhero comic styles to create an entire society that, at least in issue #1, is encompassed entirely within one establishment. As an artist, it’s difficult to keep things interesting visually with only a single location, but Broxton pulls it off with apparent ease. It’s a daring way to open up a mini-series about two extremely obscure characters with a heavy British bent, but Cornell and Broxton pull it off nicely.
If you’re up to the challenge, average American comic book reader, I urge you to pick up Knight and Squire #1, if only to let DC know that we’re up for breaking the norm and buying a different style of superhero book. Knight and Squire, if it continues on the path that issue #1 has laid, could be a great stepping stone to a whole new cast of characters that we’ll enjoy for years.