Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel

Posted by on May 26th, 2010 at 8:18 AM

Kent reviews the graphic novel inspired by the video game.

Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel. Created by Jordan Mechner; written by A.B. Sina; artwork by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland; color by Hilary Sycamore. New York: First Second, 2010. $7.99 paperback, 208 pp., full color. ISBN 978-1596436022.

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First released in 2008, this book is being reissued in tandem with the Disney/Bruckheimer movie that opens later this week. As the cover explains, the graphic novel is “inspired by the hit video game which is now a major motion picture.” The First Second press release describes Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time as “long-awaited,” but I have my doubts. If it’s a success there will almost certainly be sequels.

The graphic novel was prompted by an email that First Second’s Mark Siegel sent to Jordan Mechner. Mechner crafted the original video game in the 1980s shortly after graduating from Yale. “He told me that Prince of Persia had had a special place in his heart since the early 1990s,” Mechner reveals in the book’s afterword, “when he’d first played it on a black-and-white Macintosh Classic. Would I be interested in developing it as a graphic novel? He didn’t know he was offering to fulfill one of my childhood dreams.”

In a recent profile, the New York Times described Jordan Mechner as a “nerd’s nerd” and “a Renaissance man in the overlapping worlds of games and comics and now movies.” An intellectual property lawyer was quoted as saying, “everybody these days is talking about transmedia, but Jordan is the first guy to actually do it.”

As it turns out, however, the book’s script was drafted by somebody other than the remarkable Jordan Mechner – “A.B. Sina,” an Iranian-born journalist who lives in Montreal. At least, that’s what his (or her) bio says on the back inside cover. A google search suggests the name is probably a pseudonym.

“A.B.” delivers the goods. It’s a tight, carefully constructed script. The scenes move seamlessly between the ninth and thirteenth centuries. The characters have a chance to express themselves even as the book’s big themes – romance, villainy and history’s circular nature – are thoroughly canvassed. The quality of the storytelling is much higher than it would be in a standard movie or video game tie-in.

To be sure, the language has that melodious but slightly ponderous feel I associate with the epic adventure genre. The page below has to do with a divine prophecy, which in a way is true of every page in this portents-laden story:

While the script is credible, the artwork takes things to another level. LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland deserve a lot of credit for breathing life into the story. Their elegant pages, rather than the plot’s finely-wrought machinations, are what finally held my interest. At several points I found myself wondering what the original pages look like, and whether they are even more vibrant than the printed version. This sense of vibrancy is most definitely amplified by Hilary Sycamore’s appealing work as a colorist, of course. But my guess would be that the originals really shine.

Sooner or later, someone will spot the graphic novel in my bookcase and ask me what I’m doing with a cheesy tie-in to a cheesy movie. But that would be unfair. The First Second graphic novel is really quite decent, especially if you are into such things as Adventure, Romance, Swords and Omens.

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