I loved “Captain Britain and MI:13” for the way it established the role of the British superhero within the Marvel Universe while also telling highly entertaining and compelling stories. In “Knight and Squire,” Paul Cornell tries to do the same thing for the England of the DC Universe, except the ‘entertaining’ and ‘compelling’ are missing. Reading the second issue of “Knight and Squire,” it begins with some clever character work before falling into a dull, plodding plot that, like the first issue, seems to be lacking in any point besides to yell out that, yes, this comic takes place in England and isn’t it a little different?
The opening of the issue acts as a fun, smart introduction to the characters with a local storeowner sending a supervillain after the Knight and Squire to London, while the Squire, out of costume, stands by. There’s a unique, small town feeling to Wordenshire with everyone seeming to know who the Knight and Squire are and treating their dual identities like any other job, but also with a measure of respect. There’s also a fun sequence of Beryl getting suited up and joining the Knight in an homage to the classic “Batman” pole sequence that plays up the campier nature of these characters.
From there, though, the issue takes a downturn with a dull plot surrounding Morris Men, men dressed in costumes related to a pagan ceremony, and their efforts to return England to a time in its social past before immigration and the supposed degradation of morality. The events of the latter half of the issue seem to seep out rather than hum along nicely like the opening. It’s a very low key and passive sequence with a solution that just sort of happens accidentally rather than through any actions taken by the Knight and Squire. It’s almost as if the two don’t need to do much besides show up, especially when confronted with such benign and non-threatening villains.
Not helping matters is Jimmy Broxton’s inconsistent art. He shifts between the finer, more detailed line work of the opening scene and thicker, more cartoony lines as the issue progresses, jumping back and forth between the two. At first, I thought he was trying to show a distinction between the ‘normal’ world and the ‘superhero’ world, but, later in the issue, single scenes have the line work veer between the two, never settling on one over the other. When Broxton focuses on one style, he’s more effective; His cartoony style suits the campy, lighter nature of Cornell’s writing. He’s good at providing detailed drawings without overburdening the pages with a cramped feeling. A splash of the inside of the Knight’s castle is a visual allusion to the Batcave while working in a chess theme that comes out nicely.
The concept of “Knight and Squire” #2 is solid, but, after a promising, smart opening scene, the issue becomes a boring, flat read. The wit and energy of the characters displayed in their appearances in “Batman” and “Batman and Robin” is replaced with passive action that leans heavily on British cultural references. Except, all that’s here are the references, something Cornell accomplished much more effectively in “Captain Britain and MI:13” by balancing those references with lots of excitement and bold storytelling. No, this comic left me completely cold and wondering what the point is besides having a British superhero book for the sake of having a British superhero book.