Friday, June 24, 2011

CBR Prince of Persia


After the renewed success of the PoP series, thanks to the Sands of Time series, it was finally time for the series to expand beyond video games and unto new mediums.

While a live movie was for a long time rumored to start development, Jordan Mechner, its original creator, started working on a comic book version.
And rather than adapting any of the game, it was to be its own original self-contained story. Another take on the legend.

Is it possible that maybe, the best Prince of Persia isn't a video game but a comic book?
Comic title: Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel
Art by LeUyen Pham & Alex Puvilland            
Story by Jordan Mechner & A.B. Sina
Published by First Second
From 2008

Lineup Prince of Persia
Format: Graphic Novel.

"Which one is the true Prince of Persia? All of them. And none of them."

That is how Jordan Mechner, creator of the legendary original Prince of Persia game describe this series, who has been known throughout the years under the face of various Princes.

Most of the time, comics based on licenses tend to either embrace the comic book medium and go explore new horizons be it story-wise or artistically. Or either they turn into quick cash-ins, only to serve as marketing gigs.

With Mechner on board, and the story penned by A.B. Sina and drawn by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland, this Prince of Persia seemed more like a long-time dream being finalized. Jordan Mechner's platforming game finally taking place strictly in a narrative and not as an excuse to establish a motivation behind a gameplay.
Would it be faithful to the ever-changing franchise?
Would it feel still Prince of Persia-ysh despite the lack of interactivity?
As soon as I was able to put my eyes over these pages.. I knew I was in for quite a ride....

Our new hero! At least, one of them.

This original graphic novel is about two princes whose stories run parallel to each other.

The story follows two different Princes, jumping from the 9th and 13th centuries at various points.
The books opens up on the tale of the prince in the 9th century.
Guiv, this prince, had attempted to kill his own brother Layth. He is then seen running and manage to escape the city of Marv from Layth's guards who tried to drown him.

Then the story jumps to a young woman named Shirin who also ends up fleeing the very same city, centuries later, while escaping her own father. She ends up meeting Ferdos, a young man who lives far away from the city and seems quite detached from the life in the then-modern city.

Both this Ferdos and Guiv won't meet in these pages, but their lives are both connected, two separate adventures leading both princes to their own destinies they've been trying to avoid for so many years.
Destinies linked by a prophecy.

...Meet our other heroes!

It's an epic story, well thought, and constructed around two stories which at first don't seem to share much besides taking place in Persia and featuring Princes. (and a Princess!)
A.B. Sina makes a good use of both storylines to narrate a deeper and more interesting tale than what both stories might look like at first glance, and under so few pages.

The story of Guiv, in the 13th century, featuring such a mystical and magical citadel, is about.this man who escaped an execution by his own brother Layth.
And then we get in the future, years later, the repercussions of those same events, the resistance against Layth's sucessor, and a romance story between to young heroes. Both storylines complement each other, even to the end when they finally get juxtaposed in the final hours on each side of the Princes.

This scene taken out of context seems even more epic than what it actually means.

Fans of the game series should at least check it out, be it firstly because it came from the mind of its creator, Jordan Mechner.

The tale as this very dreamlike quality, the way the story is broken down between both eras, the stories overlapping each other.
The Persian city of Marv has a quite central role both in the 9th and 13th century.

A vizier with lust for power, a rightful prince fighting back for his place, the flows of time always running (represented in this story through water rather than sands), doubles echoing each other.
It contains all the classic Prince of Persia elements you'll find in the video game installments.

Do their knowledge of events comes from memory or prophecy? The story is built upon various levels of narrative, some will probably need to keep track of which hero is performing what on a given page.

There's plenty of action, and the artwork by Pham and Puvilland is amazing. Colorful, brilliant and exotic.
Stunning background of ruins, lush gardens, and desert landscapes.

Overall, a fantastic graphic novel!
It's for me, easily the best PoP. Yes, a comic book is the best PoP.

It's roughly over 200 pages.

The book even contains an afterword by Jordan Mechner.
Looking back at the genese of the series.
Mechner explains how the game gained popularity over the years, the simple yet original background, the storyline that easily evolved through the years over reimaginings and new episodes.
It's been upgraded several times with somewhat different versions of the hero, which Mechner justifies in these segments. 

It explores and makes good uses of all the traditional elements of the series.
Even in the end, without it being forced, rescuing a princess.
It feels like a modern Arabian Nights tale.

Epic battles, passion, horror. One of the best attempts at the adventure genre in comics from these last couple of years in my own opinion.
The video game universe of Prince of Persia translated easily to this graphic novel.

I give it:

  2.5 / 3 Ampersands!

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