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Solomon's Thieves Vol. 1
posted May 18, 2010
 

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Creators: Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham, Alex Puvilland
Publishing Information: First Second, softcover, 144 pages, may 2010, $12.99
Ordering Numbers: 9781596433915 (ISBN13); 1596433914 (ISBN10)

The first book in what I've heard is a proposed trilogy, I thought First Second's latest effort in the YA market it either totally or just seemingly totally serves now a sturdy little book. This is a stand-alone story by Prince Of Persia creator Jordan Mechner and the art team that brought a First Second attempt at a related graphic novel to that property to life a couple of years ago. I was completely befuddled by that book. I had no idea what was going on, how it related to the video game, how it related to any story that might arise in movie form out of that video game, or anything else you'd care to slip in here as a phrase. It was a dire combination of not-engaging and slightly obtuse, and I chased after it for a while like it was a greased watermelon on wet grass before giving up. I did admire they didn't go the easy route, I just wish the route they chose wasn't so particularly difficult for me.

imageThis is different. Solomon's Thieves is two songs and a talking animal short of a Walt Disney movie told in storyboard form. Our hero is Martin, returning from the Crusades. Discovering a lost love married to someone else, he lets himself get talked into a night of non-Templar activities that as fortune would have it keeps him being caught in a web out to snare and then destroy the Templars entirely. The rest of the book is about our man trying as best he can to stay out of captivity and to find some sort of improbably hook by which he might take some measure of revenge on the society that has cat him and so many other like him aside. It's a pretty standard adventure plot grafted onto fairly compelling history: another thing that may remind you of Disney, in how they used to find these perfectly Disney-like subjects that made you go, "Well, of course they're making a movie about that."

The art seems stronger than the story, at least as both have been revealed so far. Mechner has all the archetypes down but in building his narrative in structural terms there's a lot of "these people go here, then they go here, then they go here, then we go look on these people over there" as opposed to a blend of narrative and world exploration that you sometimes see with great kids' literature. The art team of Pham and Puvilland does okay with character design, better with spatial relationships, better than that with varying page design in order to control the eye and best of all knowing when to add or drop detail. The world is vividly if not always idiosyncratically portrayed, and within scenes you have a sense as to where everyone stands that aids greatly when it comes to adding drama to the dangers involved. If this had popped onto The Wonderful World Of Disney one evening in 1978 instead of another airing of Johnny Tremaine, I would have been delighted until school the next day. I might not have seen it since then, though, and a lot of how I'll remember this comic and its ability to transcend these sturdy comparisons is yet to come.

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