Si Spurrier, Sergio Dávila, and Sean Parsons paint a portrait of a troubled man in Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #1, the unique first part of a five-issue series that continues Spurrier's depressive take on the character that began in the Black Knight: King in Black one-shot. Filled with self-loathing, barely tolerated by his peers, and consumed with worry for his dark-sided power, Dane Whitman isn't exactly Avengers material. When a battle with a new villain goes south, Whitman finds out there's more to the Black Knight name than bloodlust and faux-medieval mannerisms.
Written by Si Spurrier
Art by Sergio Dávila, Sean Parsons, and Arif Prianto
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Spurrier's Dane Whitman tries to focus on the positive through the foggy lens of the depressed mind, eager to win the approval of the cool kids but earning only their derision. Whitman's mental anguish is realistically rendered, mixing social anxieties with the weightless aphorisms of 'wellness' mental health-care to create a character who is both pitiable and recognizably human.
The script here isn't without humor, leaning into the off-putting elements of Black Knight to create a vision of warped medieval iconography that creeps out the world at large. His encounter with the Avengers is equal parts embarrassing and sympathy-inducing. Most of the issue's real estate is taken up by this ego-bruising team-up, but it's the back half of the issue that really captures interest.
Spurrier's eagerness to push forward and establish a new hook for this terminally underused hero is clear in this rapidly-paced second half. With a goat-headed butler, the traumatic experience of being decapitated, and a freshly forged bond of blood, Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #1 is the solid foundation for a breakout series.
On the visual side of things, penciller Sergio Dávila and inker Sean Parsons render crisp and detailed artwork. Their compositions border on busy, packing the fore, middle, and background with characters, detail, and flying debris. Dávila's style leans towards classic superhero, which sometimes seems at odds with the off-kilter energy of Si Spurrier's script. Whitman's lantern jaw and perfect body mask a tortured soul, and while this contrast works on a thematic level, this reviewer can't help but wonder what a scratchier, more horror-influenced aesthetic could do for this script.
Despite the artistic mismatch, Dávila makes some fun stylistic choices here. He renders blood as thick and gelatinous, seemingly with a mind of its own as the Ebony Blade hungrily absorbs it. A fleeting glimpse of Camelot promises a stereotypical fairytale castle, but the skyscraper-esque structures built atop the ancient brick tease more than just classic Arthurianism. Color-wise, Arif Prianto busts out the tried and tested Marvel palette of primary colors and warm lighting. Again, it clashes a little with the dark tones of Si Spurrier's voice, even if the summery hues and splashes of gold make for a handsome page.
Si Spurrier's eclectic voice and Davila's traditional eye combine to create a comic book that at first seems like your standard Marvel book before revealing a secret and surprisingly realistic darkness. There's something quietly disturbing about Dane Whitman and his world of Arthurian myth. Si Spurrier's nuanced and original character work asks tough questions about the worth of self-esteem and establishes a fresh new set of rules for Black Knight. Although Dávila, Parsons, and Prianto's artwork is almost too polished for the subject matter, their vibrant and perfect world only enhances the contrast between the world and Dan Whitman's troubled mind.
Ultimately, Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade #1's creative team proves themselves well equipped to plunder the darkness with this strong first issue. There's more than meets the eye to Dane Whitman, and this first issue is a compelling introduction to his warped world.
Si Spurrier spoke with us recently about his plans for Black Knight: Curse of the Ebony Blade.