L’Morte D’Arthur

‘L’Morte D’Arthur.’ The title alone resounds through the ages.

This, after all is the granddaddy of fantasy fiction, the original, the one that set the tone and that all others followed. It features arguably the most famous King in literary history in Arthur and the most famous noble knight in Sir Lancelot. It also has, undoubtedly, the most famous wizard in Merlin. (Sorry Gandalf, you’re just small fry in comparison.)

Arthurian legend has it all, Noble Kings, brought up in the most humble of circumstances, brave Knights setting out on quests, beautiful queens, the machinations of wizards and witches, betrayal by friends and family. The quest for unattainable, yet noble ideals and the human frailties that are the undoing of these, you name it and L’Morte D’Arthur has it all. And then some.

While it is, without doubt the original fantasy epic it is also a bone fide literary masterpiece. Around since the fifteenth century, it fully deserves its place amongst the very great works of literature.

Given all of the above, the question would not be why has someone adapted the work as a graphic novel, but rather, why has it taken so long? (You may also be asking why you didn’t think of it first. I am). None of that is of any consequence now, all that matters is that someone has, and here it is.

L’Morte D’Arthur. The Legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, Volume One: The Return of the King. Part One of Four. Adapted from the original novel by Sir Thomas Mallory. Text adapted by John Matthews and illustrated by Will Sweeney. Published by Self Made Hero.

A fair mouthful there, but then so was the original novel. Wrongly titled L’Morte D’Arthur by its original publisher, that was only the title of the last part, the original tome is a hefty beast and with its archaic language you’ll almost certainly need a glossary to explain the text as you go. It’s not light reading or something you pick up readily.

It’s a shame that the original classic is reduced to only being read by scholars, or as a labour of love. Some of you may of course have had a section of it set as part of your school work, but I think that it’s fair to say that while many a copy may grace bookshelves across the land, not many of them are well thumbed. This is another reason why this book is so welcome. Every reader of fantasy literature should have read this.

Self Made Hero are providing a public service by publishing this book, believe me.

Adapted by John Matthews, an expert on Arthurian legend, with over a hundred books on the subject to his name, including editing a recent edition of the story, the adaptation is in safe hands. It’s fair to say that Matthews loves his subject.

It’s this respect for the source material and the desire to bring it to a wider audience that makes this adaptation so successful. With such rich source material, the main challenge is in keeping the spirit of the original, but telling the tale in a way that appeals and is relevant to a modern audience. He does this in fine style, keeping dialogue to a minimum and letting the action move the story on.

Don’t worry that you may find this dated, or stiff – you won’t. Matthew’s script is a pacey, entertaining read with plenty of page turning moments.

You may think that most of the story will be familiar to you. After all, look at the number of adaptations there have been through the years, from Boorman to Bresson to the BBC. Look at the far reaching influence of the story, from Moorcock to Marvel’s Knights of Pendragon. Oh, and how can we not mention Monty Python?

I thought that. I expected to recognise most of this story as I started it, but it was a revelation of how little I was actually aware of. Take the background of Mordred for example. There’s a biblical style prophecy that a child born on a certain day shall kill Arthur. This results in all the children born that day being banished. Rather than killing them, Arthur sets them adrift on a ship. The ship sinks, but Mordred, who was on board survives, is found and…well, you know the rest. Actually, you probably don’t, because there is so much more in here than you’re expecting.

Artwork comes courtesy of Emmy award winning artist Will Sweeny who can boast of a fine body of work and more than a few awards in recognition of his art. He provides a simple, classic style of artwork here, rightly recognising that the art should not get in the way of the story telling. That’s not to say that it’s boring, or that it lacks grandeur. When the opportunity comes, for instance, when Arthur retrieves Excalibur from the Lady in the Lake, he provides some suitably epic imagery that complements and enhances the story. Complemented by a fine eye for detail, Sweeney’s strong defined lines carry well the grandeur of the story.

L’Morte D’Arthur is a vibrant and modern rendition of great literature. Matthews, Sweeney and Self Made Hero can be proud of this book; it is more than just a fine addition to the world of graphic novels. It enhances the legacy of Mallory’s original. A fine adaptation, this really is a book that deserves to be on the shelf of everyone who has ever enjoyed fantasy fiction. This is the source of so much of what you have been reading over the years.

Pick up a copy and discover just why L’Morte D’Arthur, has been so influential and why it has lasted for so many hundreds of years.

L’Morte D’Arthur. The Legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

Volume One: The Return of the King.

Adapted from the original novel by Sir Thomas Mallory.

Text adapted by John Matthews

Illustrated by Will Sweeney.

Published by Self Made Hero.

Price: it doesn’t matter, it’s worth it. ( or £14.99)







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