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Review: Prince of Persia: Before the Sandstorm graphic novel

Jordan Mechner created the Prince of Persia video game originally in 1989 for the Apple II computer, after many popular Prince of Persia sequels and spin-offs, Jordan is one of the only video game creators who has had a hands-on approach to his original creation. For the feature film adaptation of his series, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, he wrote the original screenplay and also served as an executive producer of the film. Now he’s expanded his role as well by writing his first graphic novel about the world of the Prince of Persia, an anthology collection about 5 individuals with their lives on the the line and the one thread they all have in common is a young Prince named Dastan.

Prince of Persia: Before the Sandstorm

Written by Jordan Mechner.

Illustrated by Tom Fowler, David Lopez, Bernard Chang, Tommy Lee Edwards, Cameron Stewart, Niko Henrichon, Pete Pantazis, and Dave Stewart.

Published by Disney Press; April 2010. ISBN 978-142312429-0, hardcover $19.99; ISBN 978-142312582-2, $9.99. 128 pp.

Telling stories in another medium based on a video game franchise can’t be an enviable job. Too many times the original ideas and that made the games so beloved get lost in the translation by Hollywood and other adapters and the end result most of the time is a stinking pile of garbage. So how does a graphic novel based on a movie which is based on a video game series translate? Pretty well, actually. This is in part due to having the original Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner directly involved in the making of the Disney film and in writing the story. Tied in directly with the feature film Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time starring starring Jake Gyllenhaal and based on Mechner’s popular Prince of Persia videogame series first developed in 1989,  the graphic novel is not an adaptation of the film. Instead the book serves as a warm-up to the movie and tells the tale of five individuals who are about to be flogged and beheaded for partaking in a lavish party with apparently stolen goods and treasures from King Sharaman. The only way the five of them can save themselves from death is to try and figure out the common ground they share who has affected their lives: the young Prince Dastan and his new bride Princess Tamina.

Inspired by the original Scheherazade tales, the graphic novel focuses on 5 short stories featuring the five individuals with their lives on the line. To save themselves from certain death, they each share their tales of adventure, love, death, sorcery, heroism, bravery, and comedy. The tales are bookended by the overall story arc that features their captivity. Each short story is illustrated by a different artist whose artistic skills are best suited for the different mood of each of the stories. Tom Fowler’s bookend chapters are solid and evocative of Brent Anderson’s art from Astro City; Bernard Chang’s artwork for the story of Sheikh Amar’s tale is light and adventuresome; David Lopez’ art style for Seso’s tale is comedic with a dash of action; Dinarzad’s tale by Niko Henrichon is lush and romantic; Sharzad’s tale by Tommy Lee Edwards is beautifully photorealistic and poignant; and the Porter’s tale by Cameron Stewart is slightly cartoonish but full of action. The cover art is done by Todd McFarlane and portends of the kinetic action to come in the feature film.

The book does feature several fight scenes with some blood and gore. Stab wounds with swords and other weapons are abundant, but aren’t much more graphic than some of the classic Sinbad Ray Harryhausen films or the Pirates of the Caribbean series of films and most importantly also similar to the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time feature film. The book is recommended for 13 and up by Disney Press.

There’s only two small problems I have with the book: the character of Sheikh Amar’s appearance between the bookend story illustrated by Tom Fowler and Bernard Chang’s story almost appear to be two different men. The other small problem is that we really don’t see much of the title character in the graphic novel. Though it’s done on purpose, many readers may be disappointed that though his presence is in the book, this anthology collection really isn’t about Dastan, but his relationship to them. It’s kind of like reading a Star Wars book that focused on the gunner in Luke Skywalker’s snowspeeder but not directly about Luke himself. Despite not featuring Daston, it’s still an enjoyable anthology with some characters that are bound to show up in the film (It should be noted that the book reviews has not yet seen the movie at the time this review was published).

It should also be noted that this graphic novel in no way is connected with the First Second graphic novel of the same name, which was written by A.B. Sina and illustrated by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland.

There are many nods to fans of the Prince of Persia video games as well for fans of the series, but the book should be enjoyable for readers new to the series and to fans that enjoyed the feature film. Now where’s my Pirates of the Caribbean graphic novel, Disney?

Mike Pawuk About Mike Pawuk

Mike Pawuk has been a teen services public librarian for the Cuyahoga County Public Library for over 15 years. A lifelong fan of comic books and graphic novels, he was chair for the 2002 YALSA all-day preconference on graphic novels, served as a judge for the Will Eisner Awards in 2009, as well as helped to create the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection committee for YALSA. He is the author of Graphic Novels: A Genre Guide to Comic Books, Manga, and More, published by Libraries Unlimited in 2006 and is working on a followup to his book.

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