Bridge City Comics, located in the Mississippi neighborhood, hosts a bi-monthly Graphic Novel Reading Club where participants can read and discuss books the same way a text-only book club does. The book for August’s meeting was Hedge Knight II: Sworn Sword, by writer Ben Avery (The Oz/Wonderland Chronicles) and artist Mike S. Miller (StarCraft), and based on the short story by George R. R. Martin (Fevre Dream).
The second volume of the Hedge Knight story was chosen because Volume I was out of print, but it was also noted that “sometimes Vertigo #1s can be lacking in action.” This was borne out in The Sworn Sword, which dealt mostly with the consequences of past actions. The writing itself drew few criticisms, as the original story by Martin was enjoyable. Being adapted from a short story, the comic’s characters were well-developed and the events themselves were already refined and ready for a graphic treatment.
The theme of a fantasy protagonist who was not the bravest or the strongest was a welcome one, described by one reader as “What do you do if you’re not the best?” Dunc, having taken over the role of Hedge Knight from his former master, is not confident of his abilities and needs to be careful that he doesn’t take on more than he can handle. He is not the hero destined to win the girl at the end, and indeed he does not. The realism of a high-born woman choosing a husband of similar rank over a titleless but honorable man was appreciated by the readers.
Although the main characters Dunc and his squire Egg were more thoroughly developed in the first volume, no one seemed to have any problems understanding their motivations or personalities. Avery chose to open the second book with a traveling scene, allowing the conversation between the two to reflect their relationship and aims.
Not as well-received was Miller’s art, which most of the readers felt relied too heavily on Photoshop effects and caused dissonance between the digital and manual art. Though published in 2008, the art style seemed as though it had come out of the early days of digital comic art. One attendee didn’t mind the art style, but was disappointed that Dunc, the main character, had the least expressive face in the book, appearing almost generic. It was also noted that Egg, a ten-year-old boy, had the abs of a much older and fitter man. The overall opinion was that the art was hurt by the artist’s enthusiasm for digital effects, but that the story was engrossing enough to prevent distraction.
The next meeting of the Graphic Novel Reading Club is Thursday September 9 at 7pm, and the book will be Chew, Volume 1: Taster’s Choice, written by John Layman with art by Rob Guillory. Readers 21 and over are invited to attend.