(Note: In honour of this first issue, I will be using the correct British spelling of words in my review.) I don’t know how this book got made. I was laughing out loud by the end, amazed and delighted that Cornell had gotten a comic published in which: A) very little really happens, B) the biggest “name” character is Wildcat, and C) most of the overall style and tone are basically dependent on the reader having a fairly firm grasp on British culture and humour. Either DC editorial just love Cornell that much (and why shouldn’t they?) or they figured that all the love for the Doctor Who and Harry Potter would guarantee enough Anglophiles in the comic community. I’m not bothered about the reason, I’m simply delighted that it exists, can’t wait for more. It is a marvellous book, and should anyone besmirch it, I would leap to its defence at a moment’s notice. I shan’t apologise for my affections. In closing: lorry, lift, aluminium.
Affable, entertaining, a bit of loony with an occasional side of drama; these are the comics of Paul Cornell. From his Wisdom mini for Marvel to this latest miniseries, I’ve been a big fan. This debut installment of the adventures of Britain’s Batman & Robin franchise provides Cornell with the opportunity to invent a couple dozen off-beat UK heroes and villains, an instant universe that’s immensely entertaining, even if most of the anglophile gags missed me completely. (An index in the back is helpful but could probably have been a couple pages longer.) The story here is low-key but that’s okay as you can tell Cornell is just setting the table for the rest of his series; it still feels like a nice little complete unit. If you can’t embrace the inherent silliness of superheroes long enough to appreciate an aging queen of a Joker knockoff named Jarvis Poker, something has died inside you. Resurrect it.
Going in, I had a fundamental problem with the basic premise of Knight & Squire. The idea that Batman — who, for all intents and purposes, is dismissed as an urban legend in his own city — would inspire people in other countries to become crimefighters is ludicrous. At least it is to me. But, I read an interview where Paul Cornell compared the England in Knight & Squire to the England in Mary Poppins, so I decided to check it out. Well, it is wacky, seemingly borrowing from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman stories and Alan Moore’s Captain Britain. I’m just not sure it’s for me.
I think Kurt Busiek used the perfect word for this book in a tweet, “genial.” While I’m usually the first one to jump on a comic in which nothing happens, I really can’t fault this book despite there being virtually no conflict, because it’s just so darn genial. I could read a book about these characters sitting around and talking for 22 pages every month and that’s a credit to Paul Cornell and the expressive work done by Jimmy Broxton. The world they create inside The Time and Bottle, a London pub catering to the costumed set (both heroes and villains) is inviting and I hope that the series continues to revolve around it.