Templar cover art

Review by C.J. Bunce

In Jordan Mechner’s new hardcover novel-formatted graphic novel Templar from First Second Publishing, he follows a small band of “everyman” Knights Templar as they attempt to escape the actual erasure of the brotherhood by the current papal regime and minions of the King of France in Paris in the year 1307.  Cinematically rendered–as that term can be used to describe Disney movies such as Aladdin or DreamWorks’ Prince of Egypt, husband and wife artists Alex Puvilland and Leuyen Pham pack in 468 pages of simple yet effective panels that put a historical note on these almost mythic equivalents to the Japanese samurai and the precursors to the space fantasy Jedi Knights.

Mechner pulls themes from a myriad of favorite films to tell the story of Martin and his lost love Isabelle as they briefly reunite during a manhunt for Martin and a ramshackle gathering of fellow Knights who pursue a legendary treasure trove (that ultimately includes the Lost Ark of the Covenant) they believe to be stored in the basement of the villainous Nogaret, which they hope to use to finance a defense against the papacy and the king.  But they are up against a changing age similar to that of The Last Samurai, where the elite guard has served its purpose and now must go.  Martin’s role is like that of William Wallace in Braveheart or Robin in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.  The Knights Templar are like the Spartans of Frank Miller’s 300, but without their last stand at Thermopylae.  We get to know the smaller subset more closely, loosely based on an actual group of men who were thought to have escaped being burnt at the stake, these men wander about as a jovial sort despite their lot like the cast of A Knight’s Tale or Robin Hood’s Merry Men.  Isabelle is a well-cast Marion, too, with elements of Blakeney’s wife in The Scarlet Pimpernel. 

Templar interior page

Along the way we meet a kind old Templar Grand Master who, based on a historic figure, is imprisoned and tricked by the King’s men.  His role is that of Thomas Aquinas in A Man for All Seasons–caught in the Catch 22 of the medieval world where you either confess and die a heretic or refuse to confess and die a heretic.

Keep an eye out for a play on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and romance elements straight out of Titanic.  Mechner also wrote the video game and screenplay for the live-action film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

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Templar is a quick and easy read–a good introduction to the Knights Templar for adults without the cheesy conspiracy trappings of modern retellings such as found in The Da Vinci Code.  The mystique of the Knights Templar still ignite interest in the reader for these noble warriors that we loved seeing best in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Trimming some unnecessary adult dialogue and non-key nude scenes would also make this an ideal introduction for middle grade readers were a separate edition made available.  Less historically accurate and more adventure novel than Eric Shanower’s Eisner Award-winning Age of Bronze series that chronicled the world of the ancient Greeks, Templar still includes plenty of elements of real life in the medieval world.

This is an enjoyable novel and readers will like the camaraderie of the wandering Templars as they plan a crazy and complicated heist.  Templar‘s Disney-like drawings cannot be overstated–this is practically a camera-ready series of storyboards for the next Disney or DreamWorks animated film.

You can also download an e-book of The Making of Templar free here.  Templar is available at all bookstores and at a discount at Amazon.com.

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