Mechner, Jordan. Templar.

NY: First Second, 2013.

It’s always nice to discover a graphic novel that’s actually a “novel” and not just a rebound comic book series. This one runs more than 450 pages and it could as easily have been written and produced as a text-only work of historical fiction.

The time is 1307 and the place is Paris and environs. Sixteen years before, the Order of Knights of the Temple lost their last foothold in the Holy Land and had to retreat to Cyprus and to their original homes in Europe. Martin is a low-ranking member of the Order but it’s only by sheer luck that he misses being arrested with all the rest of the Templars on the orders of King Philip IV. (Grand Master Jacques DeMolay and all the rest are going to be tortured, tried before an ecclesiastical court, and eventually burned at the stake.) The King wants all that treasure the Order has amassed and he’s willing to buck the pope in order to get hold of it. But the treasure has been secretly hurried out of Paris — maybe. Martin reluctantly hooks up with a handful of other fugitive knights, some of whom have turned to banditry to survive, and determines to recover the treasure himself on behalf of its true owners. This is the story of how he and the gang he recruits plan and carry out the heist, how he gets back together with the young woman from whom he was forcibly separated years before, and what happens to all of them when De Nogaret, the king’s chief minister, uncovers the plot. The art is semi-realistic and it exactly suits the narrative and the period. The characters, not all of whom are going to survive, are well developed and fully formed and the narrative moves at high speed. This would actually make a pretty good film.

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