Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade

Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade
Black Knight Curse of the Ebony Blade review
  • UK publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 978-1-84653-315-0
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Marvel - 978-1-302-93021-9
  • Release date: 2021
  • UPC: 9781302930219
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero, Supernatural

The Black Knight originated as a hero in 1950s Marvel comics, was revived as a villain for Iron Man in the early 1960s, and then recast as a new hero never quite popular enough to be anything more than a guest star or team member. Echoing Lord of the Rings, his personality gradually became corrupted through association with the sword he uses, which requires blood, and he became connected through ancestry with his predecessor, and Arthurian legend. Or fact according to the Marvel universe.

The impression given is that Si Spurrier doesn’t care much for the Black Knight. The axis point of the ludicrous and sadness is pitiful, and that’s how Spurrier characterises Dane Whitman. Insecurities manifest in irritating behaviour, and his version of the Black Knight initially seems primed to annoy anyone who’s ever cared about the character. Stick with it, though, as Spurrier has a vision.

So does artist Sergio Dávila, who supplies glorious montage pages of old Camelot, heroic portraits of the Black Knight on his flying horse, and dynamic storytelling all the way through. There’s decorative rubble and great stained glass windows, illuminated by colourist Arif Prianto. This is noticeably more violent than the usual Black Knight appearance, being as a reconsideration of Camelot is on the agenda, and Dávila’s blood and thunder is monumental.

What seems to begin as ridicule eventually develops a heart, as Spurrier makes a clever connection with another Marvel character over blood, and provides explanations for some illogical aspects of the Black Knight’s past. There’s no doubt the research has been carried out, both into old comics and Arthurian legend, and Spurrier will surprise with how other aspects of Marvel history connect. By midway even fans grouchy about the characterisation will be pulled along by the adventure and danger.

Unusually superheroics and mysticism blend well in Curse of the Ebony Blade, which ultimately turns on honest self-assessment, and Spurrier’s decision to consider the myth of Camelot nothing but fake news. With one exception – no spoiler just in case you don’t see it coming – Spurrier surprises with where he takes matters, and if the ending’s a little rushed and improbable, well that’s superhero comics for you. Ultimately how impressed a reader is with this will depend on how invested they are in the Black Knight as a character, but Spurrier’s version is viable, Curse of the Ebony Blade is a thriller, and the art is great.

Oh yes, it’s not adult level potty mouthing, but Spurrier does enjoy his game of slipping old-fashioned British swear words past American editors.