Monday, May 17, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 103 (5/17) -- Solomon's Thieves by Mechner, Pham & Puvilland

The Knights Templar have been the launching point of a thousand conspiracy theories -- luckily, Jordan Mechner knows that (and writes about it in his afterword). Even better, he hasn't set this graphic novel in 1207 -- the year the French King Phillip IV (aka "the Fair") arrested the entire local branch of the order and had them condemned for heresy, homosexuality, and anything else he could think of -- to launch a conspiracy theory, but to tell an adventure story about a knight on the run.

(Mechner does play somewhat fast and loose with the facts -- he has the dissolution of the order, which even in France wasn't complete for several years, happening with blinding speed and everywhere in Europe. From his listing of sources at the end, I'm reasonably confident that he knows this is a fictionalization, and did it on purpose for dramatic license.)

Our hero here is Martin, a brawling, headstrong Templar with a knack for fighting and a head for drunkenness, who has returned to Paris with his fellow knights after the fall of Acre. He sees the girl he was in love with all those years before, and attempts to confront her. It's not entirely clear, in Solomon's Thieves, whether she's married or not: she's supposed to be, but we never see her with her husband, nor does the book mention him. But before Martin's mulishness can cause him too much trouble, Philip the Fair's machinations do far worse, and he's arrested with the rest of the order.

From there, it's a short step to a prison break, brigandage, and the inevitable quest for the lost fortune of the Templars. (Perhaps I was too hasty in dismissing this as a conspiracy theory book?) Solomon's Thieves will be a series -- at least three books, I expect -- and this one primarily exists to set up the premise, introduce Martin to some roguish compatriots, and set them on the trail of the hidden fortune. The feel is very much Dumas hommage, but authentic swashbuckling is so hard to come by in comics these days, so the swordplay is welcome -- though I do hope Mechner allows space for some wenching and carousing in the next volume.

The art is by LeUyen Phan and Alex Puvilland, the team that worked with Mechner (or, more likely, the writer A.B. Sina) on the graphic novel version of Prince of Persia two years ago. (I reviewed Prince of Persia then for ComicMix.) They give Solomon's Thieves a Euro-album feel that works well with the story, including a wide variety of faces that are more grotesque and deformed than they appear to be at first.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index
Listening to: Titus Andronicus - "Fear & Loathing in Mahwah, NJ"
via FoxyTunes

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