Saturday, April 24, 2010

Solomon’s Thieves by Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland

Solomon’s Thieves by Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland is a curious blend of historical fact, comic book visuals, and contemporary cliché.  This graphic novel is the first in what I assume will be a series exploring the downfall of the Knights Templar after the fervor for the Crusades had finally dissipated.  Thankfully, the authors do not go into conspiracy theories although this graphic novel has just about every cliché one could imagine.  A feisty maiden makes an appearance early on as the inevitable love interest of one of the soon to be troubled knights.  If contemporary literature were close to true, it is a miracle the women’s movement hasn’t made more progress because every woman from the Dark Ages through Victorian times is sassy and intelligent and even educated. 

The clichés stop with the young maiden, however.  The bad guys are obviously drawn in a way that the reader immediately knows that this is a bad guy.  Is the reader supposed to boo and hiss as soon as these two-dimensional characters appear on the page?  And who is the intended audience for this graphic novel because I couldn’t figure it out?  The illustrations are drawn in bold lines and visually this looks like something drawn for a younger reader but since the main characters get drunk, look for prostitutes on a bawdy night out on the town, and are even tortured so one would assume the intended reader would be a more mature one.  Unfortunately, because the characters are so tediously predictable, a sophisticated reader will be bored before halfway through the book because there are simply no surprises whatsoever.  That the wayward knights will have their due in the end is obvious.  That one of them will die on the way is also obvious.  Of course, the young man will be reunited with his atypical medieval maiden, probably when she is daring to run away from some unwanted future—marriage or nunnery, no doubt.  Or maybe he will rescue her accidentally.  Either way, love will out . . . *yawn*

If the writing or drawings were more sophisticated, I could easily recommend this to adults and even young adults.  Because of the clichés and the obvious story line, I can’t even recommend this to younger readers; I’d rather encourage them to read something that will rise to the occasion, that will fan the flames of curiosity, something that would not fall flat and leave the reader, at least this reader anyway, bored. 

In the afterward, Mechner lists some of the texts he used as resources in his research for the comic.  Anyone who wants to read about the Knights Templar, the Crusades, or the Middles Ages would do better to pick up any one of these books rather than read this graphic novel.  However, if you want to be entertained then most readers would do better to just watch a movie that takes place in this era.  God knows Hollywood is unable to create anyone but a lovesick hero and a feisty maiden to give life to a time in history that was rife with intrigue, fascinating people, and challenging experiences.  I expect more than typical Hollywood fodder from the books I read, even if it is “only” a graphic novel.  I love anything that is well written, interesting and engaging, without going for the trite and predictable.  That this is a graphic novel is no excuse for laziness in plot, character development, etc.  A two dimensional medium for two dimensional characters and a flat plot—how redundant.

In the end, a dull read about something that deserves something more dynamic.

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