A Great Knight For Adventure
Tripwire continues its 100 Graphic Novels You Should Read While Stuck Inside with its ninth choice, Camelot 3000, by Mike W. Barr and Brian Bolland, reviewed by editor-in-chief Joel Meadows…
Writer: Mike W Barr
Artists: Brian Bolland & Bruce D Patterson/ Dick Giordano/ Terry Austin
Colours: Tatjana Wood
It is easy to forget these days just how important DC’s Camelot 3000 was when it first came out back in 1982. The direct market had just started and here was a limited series designed just for comic shops. Watchmen was a number of years away and comic readers had seen nothing like it before.
Writer Mike W Barr had almost a decade of experience under his belt, writing for both Marvel and DC while artist Brian Bolland had come up as part of the same British invasion of the early 1980s that also included Dave Gibbons, which would act as an advanced guard for the likes of Grant Morrison, Peter Milligan and Frank Quitely a few years later.
Camelot 3000 tells the tale of the return of King Arthur in the year 3000, who is awoken by an ordinary Brit, Tom, and is back to save a world under siege from alien invasion. The threat of Morgan LeFay has reared her head again too and so Arthur must reunite the knights of the round table to battle her once again.
Admittedly some of the dialogue here is a little bit hokey but Barr manages to create a sci fi adventure story complete with all of the familiar ingredients necessary to make an Arthur tale shine. There is betrayal and infidelity, honour and sacrifice. Bolland’s art is a little more embryonic here than we saw from him just a few years later but his portrayal of King Arthur is heroic and iconic and we see a series of clever twists on the classic Arthurian knights including a Sir Tristan who is very different from his portrayal in legend and a Merlin who feels enigmatic yet familiar at the same time. His lines possess a cleanness and a clarity to them that became his trademark in future comics and series.
Coming just a year after John Boorman’s Excalibur at the cinema, Barr and Bolland’s Camelot 3000 continues to impress all these years later, feeling cinematic at times and subverting Arthur’s legends through the prism of four color science fiction. It is a broad tale of hope and it was the major US debut of artist Bolland, who showed his versatility as an illustrator, as well as showcasing Barr’s agility as a memorable modern comic writer. The inkers on Bolland’s work especially Terry Austin lend his lines a slightly different feel to what we are used to but they do mostly suit his pencils.
King Arthur is a character and an archetype that continues to appeal to this day and Camelot 3000 is one of the best comicbook representations of this most iconic of fictional figures. It is a worthy addition to our list of 100 graphic novels and reading it again feels like returning to meet with an old friend to renew your acquaintance. For those who haven’t read it before, sit back and enjoy an exceptional adventure tale.
Camelot 3000 is out now from DC.
Here’s a link to the first eight of our 100 GNs too