We know from previous Matthias Wolf books that the man is nigh on obsessed with myths, legends and fighting. The Sword and the Butterfly takes all of these elements from previous series Unbeatable, but wraps them around a more traditional plot.
The story is unmistakably Wolf. A girl finds herself orphaned by family tragedy and cast into a hellish orphanage of bullies. Only one boy stands up for her, drawing trouble onto himself, though she finds it difficult to express any gratitude, having hardened herself to her surroundings. Eventually, her fighting skills are recognised by a local wizard who takes her to a mountain-top castle, where he’s training contenders to be the next warrior king or queen. All this draws heavily on Arthurian legend, with magical swords stuck in stones, ladies in lakes, and the wizard being a cross between Merlin and Gandalf. Wolf does his usual mythological mash-up though, so watch out for references to Atlantis, mermaids, demons from Hell and giant Japanese fighting robots.
The plot has enough twists and turns to keep it interesting, though the final battle feels like it’s going through the motions: you know how this is going to end before you start reading. The journey has been made as interesting as possible and the script is tight, but I couldn’t help but think that it could be improved with fewer fight scenes. There’s a lot of bloodshed, especially in the middle section when Cat must prove her worth in battle. This stopped the book from being appropriate for all-ages, where it might otherwise have sat quite nicely.
Wolf’s heroes are surprisingly well-rounded, with his heroine Cat in particular striking a positive chord with us. She manages to stay sensibly clothed throughout, and is a determined, powerful character; something that is sadly still a rarity in female characters in comics.
The art is solidly professional throughout the book, suiting the subject matter well, though again, the animation-inspired style might have sat well with a younger audience if the book’s creators had reigned back a little on the violence.
On the whole it’s an interesting fantasy romp but despite some plot twists it remains formulaic. Wolf’s desire to stay within the story frameworks of existing mythologies, even while colliding lots of them together to make something different, still left few surprises. It’s an enjoyable enough read but Wolf hasn’t written his graphic novel masterpiece yet.