Saturday, 11 June 2016
In October 1307 the king of France, Philip IV, moved against the Knights Templar in a shock assault on the wealthiest and most established of the orders of military knights in Europe. The Templars, who had accrued wealth and influence as a consequence of their role in the Crusades, as well as filling the demand in Europe for cross-border banking services, were unprepared for a crack down that was later extended to other kingdoms. They ended up with few refuges, although Scotland and some of the noble houses there were still able to provide them with some succour.
Solomon's Thieves is an excellent comic in what I hoped would be an ongoing series, as this volume professes to only be the first part in the saga (more of this later). It is written by Jordan Mechner, create of the video game Prince of Persia. It deals principally with the mysterious disappearance of the treasure of the Templars from their temple outside Paris. Where did it go? Who took it? And what happened to the small number of Templars who evaded arrest?
To go into more detail would risk spoilers, but the tale is told with the fast-moving pace and wit you would expect from the Three Musketeers. The art has a slightly cartoonish element to it, but I found after a few pages that it actually worked well. There are moments of hilarity combined with scenes of grim helplessness (e.g. the interrogation of Templars by the king's authorities).
My one criticism is that this indeed only the the first part in the saga. It was published in 2010, with the intention of making it a trilogy. In the end, Mechner combined all three parts into a single volume which came out in 2013, called Templar, but which costs over £20. Is Solomon's Thieves good enough to warrant shelling out for Templar? I still believe it is.