Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel by Jordan Mechner, A. B. Sina, LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland

When Princess Shirin is denied the presence of her dancing tutor by her own father, she runs away from the city disguised as a common street Urchin, calling herself Shapur. At a caravan stop in the desert, she is commanded to draw water from the well there, but the bucket gets trapped against a tree root and sticks. She is sent down into the well to free it, but sees something in the water below... a man's reflection in the water.

The well is reputed to be haunted, so her cried convince the others to abandon the well at once. But she has lost a necklace given to her by her tutor in the well and goes back to retrieve it. She slips and falls into the water, and is rescued by a man named Layth, who is the son of the former ruler of Persia. When his father was killed, the man's killer, the new King, raised Layth as his son, along with his own children, Guiv and Guilan. Raised together, they were inseparable.

Shirin is entranced by the story, but then "Layth" begins freaking her out, and he reveals his real name, Ferdos, Guardian of the Waters. He shows her the room where he writes, filled with containers of Kohl, which he uses as ink.

A century earlier, Guilan, married to Layth, saves the life of her brother when Layth tries to drown him. She is pregnant with Layth's child, and loves him, but Layth is nervous and jumpy, despite the fact that Guilan loves him. Layth, who is now King, wishes that he and Guilan were free and Guiv were King. Guiv, meanwhile, has left the city, and followed only by a Peacock from the Garden, taken shelter in a castle atop a crag, supposedly the home of a famous sage, but actually empty of people. Injured by a lion, and then a boar. he recuperates in the castle, and discovers a pit filled with skeletons and other bones. The Peacock, which has become some kind of otherworldly bird-creature that claims to be a thousand years old, keeps him company as he recuperates.

But when Layth is killed by his own general, can Guiv lead the people to prosperity in his own name? And when Shirin discovers that Ferdos is the Prince prophesied about 100 years ago to become the new ruler of Persia, and that her father and mother are corrupt and vicious, will she side with him to save her people from the Mongols and away from the corruption. and violence of her father's reign?

Now, supposedly this graphic novel ties together the stories of all the video games, but I honestly don't think it does. I remember a lot of running, jumping and leaping ledges and trying to avoid guards in the first few games, and none of the stories in those games really seems to be represented here, even if Jordan Mechner was responsible for all the games. I haven't played any of the videogames past number 3, so I don't know if they are all supposed to be about the same character or not (the early ones versus the later ones, that is), but it seemed to me as if this plot was just another game variation of some kind.

It's not a bad story, and the two are interleaved very well, with each artist taking a different story and a different time in history allowing them to be parallel and for the art to differentiate changes in time and place. Both stories also draw on different Persian myths, without any sort of magic save for visions and perhaps spells. No genies or palaces built out of sand or clouds, or creatures like Rocs, either.

It's an interesting story, but I wouldn't go so far as to tie it to the games except thematically, in that all the stories are about Persian Princes. None of the names are the same, nor are the characters, but both stories are about the nature of responsibility, freedom and time. In some places the story gets rather confusing, but otherwise this is a solid title. Just don't expect it to have much, if any, connection to the actual computer and videogames and you'll enjoy it a lot more. Recommended, but not highly.

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