Sunday, March 31, 2013

CBR PoP Before The Sandstorm


It's time to revist the Sands of Time in comic book form this time!

The Sands of Time are full of stories of Prince of Persias, Evil Vizirs and Gorgeous Princesses!

Comic title: Prince of Persia: Before The Sandstorm: A Graphic Novel Anthology
Art by Bernard Chang, Tommy Lee Edwards, Tom Fowler, Niko Henrichon, David Lopez, Cameron Stewart, Pete Pantazis, Dave Stewart and Todd McFarlane
Written by Jordan Mechner

Published by Disney Press
From 2010
Lineup Prince of Persia Series
Format: Digest-sized Graphic Novel.

Before The Sandstorm is - as the title says - a Prince of Persia anthology in the form of a Graphic Novel.

Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner always loved comics just as much as video games. When the timing was right, what with the live action Prince of Persia Sands of Time arriving on the silver screen, Mechner tagged with several comic book artists to explore the Prince of Persia in this tie-in adaptation.

What followed were six tales, very unique and quite reminiscent of the Arabian Nights. Six different explorations of this fictional universe through different tones, different art styles, each exploring another facet of this now cult series.

One day, five individuals are arrested and brought to the palace of the local governor. They were found having a party and possessing what appeared to be riches from the royal family of King Sharaman! To buy some times and try to prove their innocence at the same time they proceed to tell the story how they come to possess such treasures.

It appears they all encountered a man named Dastan at some point, the Prince of Persia!

"Sheikh Amar's Tale" opens up this book after an introduction tying them all together. This story was drawn by artist Bernard Chang. It's a comedic tale told by Sheikh Amar (from the movie), mostly inspired by the original PoP game. Long before he was adopted into the royal family, Dastan was thrown in jail where he met Sheikh Amar. After telling to each other how they came to be there they make a run for it and escape through the cells, caves, pits and dangerous traps. This story's my favorite personally, there were some references to the classic games (the potion!) with a Warrior Within twist.

Of course the sultan doesn't believe a word. So he turns his attention to Seso, a Ngbaka soldier. "Seso's Tale" drawn by David Lopez is the story how this proud African tribesman ended up as a slave before becoming the Sheikh's handyman. I particularly liked the colors and the art direction of this second tale. It's stretching it out a bit, but I found the overall look of the characters here similar to the tone of the game Prince of Persia 3D. Just the "Arabian Nights" flair it had.

To confirm it, one of the dancers there decides to confirm the proud sense of honor of the Ngbaka, which goes to show he couldn't be lying. In "Dinarzad's Tale" drawn by Niko Henrichon. It's a story she remembers being told by an old woman named Farah. A story in the middle of the Hashashins' lore the movie touched a bit at some point.

Then it's the turn of her sister, with "Sharzad's Tale" by Tommy Lee Edwards. It's the story of the young Princess Tamina of Alamut years ago, when she discovered her duty to protect the Sands of Time in that legendary sandglass. The closest one to the tone of the film, with a gorgeous photo-realistic look.

Finally, we turn to "The Porter's Tale" with art from Cameron Stewart. The porter remembers a story when he was younger and a man named Roham came to his village of Bash in the mountains with tales of adventures. He was once saved by Dastan when he ended facing a dangerous lord under a strange spell. That man Zahak had a magical curse that forced him to eat people alive constantly. And the Prince was there to save him from Zahak's dungeons. 

Did these stories all actually happen or are they merely tales they came up with to save themselves from the execution?

In typical Prince of Persia fashion, this book does take place before the events of the film but it's actually more of a sequel rather than a prequel. At the end the Prince turned things back to prevent it all from happening wit the Sands of Time. And it seems he decided to give these unlikely characters all that gold and treasure as to offer his gratitude from the help Sheikh Amar and Seso provided him with during the events of the film.

Even if no one has any memories of what happened (or what would have happened).

It's a fun exploration of the Prince of Persia mythos. It draws a lot of inspiration from the games but tries its own things since it's based on the movie. But fans of the games will still enjoy it quite a lot, there's various references to the entire PoP series!

It's a very fun book that both explore the motives and backgrounds of some characters from the film yet playing homage to the entire series.

Overall, it's a pretty fun recommended read! It really recaptures the classic adventurous feel of old adventure comics.

Strangely enough it was later re-released as a four-issue miniseries at Dynamite (hey!? isn't it the other way around usually!?).

The book also has a very nice if "over-the-top" cover by Todd McFarlane that sets the tone of the series, swords a-blazin'! It's both ridiculous and perfectly fitting.

A fun anthology prelude, that also works as a perfect entry point no prior knowledge necessary to enjoy it.

Jordan Mechner kept the rights of the entire franchise all these years. He still has a control of the property even though he let it developed separately. It's great to see his having fun exploring it in this medium while he lets Ubisoft take care of the games.

The movie already had its share of Hassassin's galore - even though the Assassin's Creed is a separate unrelated IP at Ubisoft - but fans of the legendary Assasssins while enjoy that part of this book here.

Mechner has been exploring Hassassins and Templars in his later project "Solomon's Thieves" after that.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Ampersands!

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