Review by Gareth Hughes
Following on from the success of Marvel's first Once Upon A Time graphic novel, 'Shadow of the Queen', comes 'Out of The Past', a collection of 4 short stories featuring long established fan favorite characters. Written by OUAT writer and co-executive producer Kalinda Vasquez and Corinna Bechko, all the stories are considered canonical and tie into official show continuity. Though with a show as sprawling in scope as Once, deciphering where in the timeline the stories fit is sometimes like cracking the Enigma Code!
Chapter One: "Dead In The Water"
Art by Pascal Campion
The first chapter focuses on a young Killian Jones and is set prior to his fateful encounter with the Dark One. Killian and his crew are caught in a dangerous storm surge that threatens to tear apart the Jolly Roger. Faced with the destruction of the ship, Killian has no choice but to steer the Jolly Roger into a cursed stretch of water known as the Leviathan Shoals.
Leviathan is a sea monster referenced in the Tanakh, or the Old Testament. The word has become synonymous with any large sea monster or creature. In this version of the tale, the water surrounding the monsters lair is reputed to drive men into madness with horrific visions.
The resulting effects of the water bring a familiar face back into Killian's life, tying into plot strands from season three of the show. Killian's actions during the story once again hint at the hero beneath the pirate, as well as revealing more about how the grief and tragedy of events in his life have impacted him. The outcome of the story is left ambiguous, leaving doubt in both Killian and the readers mind as to whether what he experienced was real or not.
Chapter Two: "Truth & Daggers"
Art by Betsy Peterschmidt
The second story focuses on Belle and Rumple and is set during the early stages of Belle's tenure as a servant within the Dark Castle. The story touches on the sacrifice that Belle made by giving up her freedom to serve at the castle, one aspect being how Belle is now perceived by people within the local village. Many of the villagers are fearful and distrustful of her due to her involvement with Rumple. This plot thread highlights just how isolated Belle is and just how much she has given up. These small moments of realisation to her situation add layers to Belle's character that are sometimes missing from the TV show.
The main thrust of the plot involves her reunion with an old childhood friend, Samuel, who has been gravely injured in the Ogres War. Turning to Rumple for help in nursing her friend back to health, Belle soon discovers that all is not what it seems with Samuel.
"Truth and Daggers" is a playful, fun little story which also explains how Rumplestiltskin came to be in possession of Pandora's Box, once again tying into season three continuity.
Chapter Three: "Ghosts"
Art by Vanessa Del & Esther Sanz
"Ghosts" is by far the weakest tale in the set. The plot focuses on the Evil Queen, but it is a one dimensional Regina we meet here, lacking the layers and nuances that has made Lana Parrilla's character, arguably, the most popular OUAT character in all the realm.
The story centres on another of Regina's attempts to bring Snow White to 'justice'. During the course of her pursuit, Regina finds herself in the Forest of the Dead and comes across an individual with a surprising connection to her former lover, Daniel.
"Ghosts" is the shortest story in the book and suffers greatly as a result. The central plot seems poorly conceived and doesn't really go anywhere. Thankfully, things pick up considerably for the final instalment!
Chapter Four: A Tea Party In March
Art by Janet Lee
They've saved the best until last. The final story in the set brings back a much beloved OUAT character who has not been seen since season two: Jefferson! The story answers long standing questions such as the identity of Jefferson's wife and what exactly happened to her. It's a powerful tale that once again manages to provide more layers to one of OUAT's most tortured and misunderstood souls. I will say no more as this story really needs to be savored by fans and is well worth the price alone!
The book concludes with some behind the scenes bonus content including concept art from season three and a selection of Eduardo Castro's stunning costume sketches.
Overall, I was really impressed by both the quality of storytelling and the artwork in this graphic novel. Rumple and Belle's story in particular is gorgeously illustrated. As with the previous novel, the read is over far too soon, however the novel proves once again that OUAT does translate very well to other forms of media. Here's hoping that the novel will sell well, allowing for a more regular release schedule or even a monthly comic from Marvel. With the first original Once Upon A Time novel, 'Red's Untold Tale', due for release in September, it would now seem that Disney is finally treating OUAT as the franchise it deserves to be.
"Out of the Past" is a perfect addition to any Oncer collection and is available from online stores and comic book retailers now.
Order from Amazon USA - Order from Amazon UK