I recently visited a close friend who lives in sunny California. And while it’s a place known for the weather and beach life, I’m more vampiric in nature and prefer the dark and cool corners of the world. I also have a bad tendency to always search out bookstores, despite how jam-packed my own house is with books and comics. So naturally I was introduced to a place called Kepler’s Books & Magazines.
I browsed hungrily and found tons of interesting literature. But like any giant nerd, the first thing I searched for was Kepler’s selection of graphic novels. Which is where I first came face to face with the original Cosmoknights. I must have held it in my hand for a good half hour as I debated whether or not to take a chance on an author I wasn’t yet familiar with.
Ultimately I made the wrong choice and put Cosmoknights Book 1 back on the shelf to pick up other stories. But thankfully, I’ve been given a chance to rectify my huge mistake. And after reading not just the first volume, but also Cosmoknights Book 2, let me tell you, this is a series everybody should own on their bookshelves.
First, let me get something out of the way. Part of my hesitancy to take a chance on the series was due in part due to its apparent focus on LGBTQ+ issues. Not because I have any problem with gay people or issues, mind you–after many years I like to think of myself as an ally–but just because I always try and focus on whether or not a story is compelling in its own right before I focus on the author’s identity.
It’s clear out of the gate that Cosmoknights is about “gays in space” and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s also a tale about a varied and engaging group of characters who set themselves against the status quo. The sort of story that I love.
A big part of why this book is so captivating, besides the stunningly gorgeous artwork that looks like a watercolor anime, are the people caught up in this colorful space opera. First and foremost is Pan (short for Pandora).
She’s just a small town girl who befriends a literal princess at a young age. In the world of Cosmoknights, princesses get auctioned off to the lucky winners of gladiatorial combats referred to as Jousts. In the case of the titular Cosmoknights, these characters literally fight for their hand in marriage, along with any assets connected to their kingdom.
Sounds like a decent deal, right? At least for the knights themselves. Maybe not so much for the princess getting sold like a piece of property. The first thing Pan does in Book 1 is help her friend Tara escape this fate by sending her rocketing into the unknown. We don’t get to see anymore of princess Tara in Book 1, but rest assured her story gets developed much more in Book 2.
Besides Pan, there’s a rowdy married couple named Cass and Bee. Both are women that fight in Jousts under their respective codenames, Bull and Harrier. Bull is completely badass and fights like a platinum blonde Conan. Harrier meanwhile, is aerial, and very much the strategist of the team. They’re both hiding their gender, as well as the fact that the princesses they win don’t get married off. Instead, they free them from the captivity of their patriarchy, whether they want that or not.
Now, it should be noted that Cass used to be a princess herself and actually earned her freedom in her very first Joust. She’s a very linear thinker, and focuses on one thing at a time. Lucky for her, Bee keeps everything organized in her brilliant mind, letting the Bull rampage through all comers.
There’s also Kate. She’s sneaky, snarky and hard edged, as well as being a brilliant hacker. At first she comes across as a potential villain, but rest assured she’s not some Scooby Doo bad guy and is just very emotionally complicated with a bit of an anarchist complex. She’s always sporting a new hairstyle thanks to her many wigs, which somehow always highlight her beautiful looks and stylish tatoos.
Then there’s the recently “saved” princess, Scottie. She seems petulant and immature initially, but she’s actually trying to use the Joust system to improve her own kingdom. She also has a protector, a fluffy space cat named Percy. And if I didn’t already love Cosmoknights after the first volume, Book 2 introducing Percy made me a committed fanboy.
Cosmoknights Book 2 is about taking the pieces from the first volume and dramatically expanding and testing everything. Cass and Bee are content at first to keep on rescuing princesses, but they’re not getting any younger, and Kate has a new plan.
She wants to use their popularity to gain a following and start to tear down the Jousts from the inside. As for Pan, she’s eager to learn how to fight from the Bull, and there’s some charming sequences where she learns to operate in limited gravity situations. We also have some space pirates that get introduced, and they’re after Scottie.
The main Joust in Book 2 takes place in Ironvein, a hub of metal that enjoys tremendous wealth. We quickly learn something may be amiss, and even wonder if this particular Joust has been rigged in advance. Besides slowly becoming Cass’ squire, Pan also finds potential love in the scrapyard, and learns to embrace her heroic persona.
Perhaps one of my favorite elements of this volume are the flashbacks that show Pan and Tara as younger children. Not only are these hilarious moments, but they do a great job of encapsulating the core identities of both characters.
Besides the engaging story, the action sequence are also a huge draw for me. Honestly, I’d love to see a Cosmoknights movie, or at least an animated series. Hannah Templer clearly has studied the greats diligently, and come up with a style that is transcendent. There’s quiet, tense moments, bombastic battles and all sorts of chaos.
Why You Should Buy Cosmoknights
While Book 1 was great, the place Cosmoknights Book 2 ends really sets the stage for greater things to come in Cosmoknights Book 3. Honestly, this is one of the most interesting and enjoyable graphic novels I’ve read from IDW since Locke & Key.
Granted, both series couldn’t be more different, but they’re each fully realized and very easy to get lost in. So what are you waiting for? Go to your local comic shop and plop down $24.99 for this gorgeous, funny and heartfelt story. You won’t regret it.