Tally ho! Britain's Batman and Robin get their own mini-series. It's as British as you can get, and gloriously demented.
Credits & Solicit Info:
Knight & Squire #1(of 6)
Written by Paul Cornell
Illustrated by Jimmy Broxton
Just as Gotham City has Batman and Robin, London has Knight and Squire - the British heroes and frequent allies of The Dark Knight! In a secret bar within the city where peace is kept magically, heroes and villains gather to enjoy a pint and talk about their day. But what happens when the magical barriers that disallow fighting are dropped and a building full of heroes and villains confront each other all at once? Knight and Squire have to keep the peace and save both friend and foe in this 6-issue miniseries from hot writer Paul Cornell (ACTION COMICS, Captain Britain and MI:13) and up-and-coming artist Jimmy Broxton (THE UNWRITTEN).
Paul Cornell may have been comprehensively absorbed by the US Comics Industry, but by no means has he left behind his roots. After penning a fairly realistic (well, as realistic as you can get with Skrulls, Mindless Ones and Vampires running around) portrait of Modern Britain for Marvel's Captain Britain & MI:13, Cornell is now over at DC showing us what their version of the UK is, and it's a very different kettle of fish.
Picking from the idea of Britain having it's own secret superhero history that Grant Morrison set up in Batman And Robin #7-9, Cornell's take on Britain here is bizarre and yet strangely true. The Pub where the story is set is populated by a wide variety of weird characters, taking their inspirations from all sorts of esoteric British cultural touchstones. We've got characters inspired by old Benny Hill sketches, by the Traditional Postcard images, by Cricket, by old Racist Television shows, by The Beatles. Cornell is filtering 100 plus years of Britishness through a super-heroic lens, and coming up with something unique and wholly British.
But there's more here than random jokes and a game of spot-the-reference, the plot of the issue comes from something deep within the British psyche, and perhaps the reason for the lameness of our heroes. There's a weird mix we have of feeling both inferior to other modern cultures (such as America), but a pride in that inferiority, a pride in not being quite so monolithically powerful as others. At being the little guy, Is it guilt for the Empire? Who knows, and Cornell doesn't really discuss it, but it's interesting seeing this kind of exploration of what a country's identity actually is being discussed in a DC Comic. Should we be proud of these second-rate heroes? Or ashamed? It was interesting to see the JSA character Wildcat make a guest appearance, a guy who is C-List at best, is treated like superhero royalty in the UK, it's a telling scene, and also a fun guest-appearance. Didn't Paul Levitz reveal that Wildcat was descended from British aristocracy or something? Cornell should play with that.
These heroes certainly have no reason to be ashamed of the artist attached to this book, Jimmy Broxton is an artist new to the scene (or is he, there seem to be some strange rumours about him floating around), probably most familiar for providing finishes for Peter Gross on 2 or 3 issues of The Unwritten, and his art is a good fit here, it's cartoony and loose enough to work with all the weirdness going on, but still fits comfortably within the DC style.
The book isn't without it's faults, despite being the ostensible stars of the series, Knight and Squire don't really do much, and the level of British arcana contained within the issue may be too much for some Americans to really grasp hold of (There's a handy page at the back to explain some references, but even so). But with each issue being a standalone adventure, I'm sure Sir Percy and Beryl will get their chances to shine, and in many ways, just being dropped into this madcap funhouse mirror of Britain without explanation could be educational to some Yanks. I learned a lot about American society from reading American comics, with no hand-holding and explanation and it's only fair that you guys experience the same. Knight And Squire is an odd book, one that really resonated with me as an British reader, I'm not sure it will do the same for Johnny Foreigner, but it's worth a try.
Review by: Niam Suggitt