KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN #1 is a story about angels, set in the Middle East at around 400 BCE. It is a new series for Mad Cave Studios; Mark London handles the script, and Mauricio Villarreal provides the art.

Although our heroes are the angels of the Abrahamic faiths, you should not think of this as a religious comic. Instead, it uses the stories of angels to examine loyalty, duty, and evil in the face of abandonment. That feeling of being left to fend for yourself is especially painful when you thought you’d never be alone.

BATTLECATS #1 – #5 Review: Good Comic, Great Effort

When the Father Disappears, the Angels take Charge

KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN #1 plays off of the biblical narrative of the archangels. Starting off, we’re introduced to Lucifer and his Fallen, the angels who seek to become gods themselves.

As told, it was Michael, an archangel, who cast Lucifer and company out of Providence down to Earth. Here, full of malice, Lucifer vows to make the world suffer, one person at a time. He gets his chance when, through mercurial whim, the Father disappears around 400 BCE.

KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN
Michael casts Lucifer from Providence, the supernal plane. Image courtesy of Mad Cave Studios.

And that’s where the drama begins. Up until the birth of Jesus in 4 AD,  the angels are abandoned and left to themselves. During this time, Lucifer and the Fallen wage war both on the angels and man. Without the Father giving orders to the angels, chaos becomes the norm. This first issue shows us the start of this war through the eyes of the archangels. Lucifer attacks them not only with blade but also with doubt. That last weapon is the greatest of them all, portending a compelling story.

Or at least it should be. The plot of KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN #1 is a bit helter-skelter, and this hurts the central drama. The comic starts with the birth of Jesus and then jumps to an introduction of the “400 Years of Solitude.” Then, it swings back to King David some 1000 years before Jesus, before settling at the present day (400 BCE, give or take). By the time the story starts, I’m more concerned about figuring out where and when I am than what’s going on with the characters.

Margaret Atwood’s ANGEL CATBIRD and the Problem with Celebrities in Comics

Maybe that’s not a problem — after all, angels transcend time and space. For a complex plot to work, characters have to be even more compelling than the setting. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The Angels are Divine but Not All That Interesting

One could argue that a weakness of this plot is that we already know how the story ends. In other words, there’s nothing left to discover. I would counter, however, that that’s not always true. If you have characters — complex or not — who set goals and pursue them, the destination is secondary to the journey.

And I think that’s the problem with our archangel heroes. Although they do have goals, most of them come off feeling forced for plot convenience. Certainly, their resolutions play out that way. Michael and Raphael take on Lucifer but leave the plot with laughable simplicity. Uriel — the most conflicted archangel — loses her doubt with a simple slap-on-the-wrist remark from Gabrielle. That interesting, personal conflict gets forgotten by an order to fight giants who show up without much explanation. As a reader, I didn’t know what to feel.

UNCANNY X-MEN #7 Review: The return of (Arch)Angel?

At least the villains take on clear goals. There’s Lucifer (see below), who has captivated audiences since Paradise Lost. Unfortunately, after his own minor victory, a Deus ex-machine ends his arc — and the plot never explains what happened.

KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN
Lucifer’s demonic side overpowers his angelic origin. Image courtesy of Mad Cave Productions.

Nevertheless, the Execution of the Art Was Good

I’ve written a fairly critical review of KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN #1. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that I enjoyed the book more and more each time I reread it. Even if those rereads were to understand what was going on.

SALTWATER: THE ANARCHY OF WATER Review: Rebel With A Cause

The first thing to mention is the art. Mauricio Villarreal does a fantastic job putting tiny details into just about everything. Whether it’s Michael’s well-manicured stubble or even the individual chain links about Lucifer’s arms, Villarreal commands a commendable attention to detail. The detail of the art continues not just in the characters but in the world too. The armor of the angels, the cityscapes, or even the embroidery on Uriel’s cloak shows a great love for this creation.

I think what elevates Villarreal’s art from careful drawings alone, is the coloring. The light effects of swords or the angel’s eyes are bright and clear. Beyond the light, there are amazingly vivid textures. Clothing, metal, skin, and stone all look right. In one of my favorite panels, we see David wrapped up with Bathsheba. The suppleness of both of their skin recalled the same improbably softness one sees in a Bernini sculpture.

KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN
A Villarreal landscape. Notice the various textures at play. Image courtesy of Mad Cave Productions.

That being said, I did have a few minor critiques of the art. For instance, sometimes the characters were too soft. Facial expressions that could have been sharper — snarls or fiery eyes — lost the emotional intensity an angular rendering would afford.

Also, with everything being super-detailed, it was sometimes hard to follow the action on the panel. The eye will find focal points — which should direct the action — but unimportant details given equal attention can interrupt the story. Even still, the artwork is strong in this comic and is unlike anything I have seen before.

Additionally, I commend the creative team for how they represented the angels. There is equal racial and gender diversity on display. They didn’t have to do this, but they did. It reflects on the theme of angels being servants to all mankind, not just Western Europe.

Final Thoughts on KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN #1

I like the premise of the comic. Whenever characters subsumed, especially by Christian traditions, show up in media, it’s normally not too flattering. The thinly-veiled proselytization in these stories pokes through even thinner stories. That wasn’t the case here — and that was cool, coming from someone who grew up with archangels in church.

Faith vs Organized Religion in PREACHER

In the end, though, I still felt let down. The plot jumped too much for me to connect with the characters. Scenes that could have been tense — tense enough to invest me in the consequences of the action were just confusing.

I won’t call the death knell for this comic yet. Starting issues all have the challenge of needing to sell to get people in the door. One way to do that is to have cool splashes of art showing intense action. This is the difference between a casual page turn eliciting a “meh” or a “wow!” I know I’m guilty of buying plenty of comics because of that trick.

Issue #1 has plenty of wow-power, so I have hopes KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN #2 could have a better story. Mad Cave Studios reports it as coming soon, and I’ll be looking forward to checking it out. In the meantime, you can purchase Issue #1 from the publisher’s website and see what you think for yourself.

KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN #1 by Mark London and Mauricio Villarreal
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN SUN #1, starring angels battling Lucifer, introduces some cool ideas about service to self versus service to a cause. Although the art was spectacular in detail and lighting effects, the story failed to be as impressive. The plot jumped around too fast for meaningful character development. This hurt the strong premise and ideas therein. Overall, this comic lacked the emotional gravitas that it could have had.
67 %
INTERESTING PREMISE

Show ComicsVerse some Love! Leave a Reply!