By Jean Dufaux and Philippe Xavier
Crusade continues the medieval sword and a modicum of sorcery tale of “a forgotten crusade.. erased from history because it fell into the shadow of the devil“.
“Crusade is attempting to tell a really interesting quasi-historical tale mixing the dubious morality of the Crusades with a healthy dose of mysticism and fantasy. It’s well done, with plenty of action and intrigue and overall, it’s a damn fine introduction to the series.”
“Only one man; Gauthier Of Flanders raises a voice of reasoned objection, but his words are unheeded and the Christians march to battle, unaware that the opposing Muslim forces have called upon ancient sorcery to protect them from the Simoun Dja. … it seems the devil has a personal interest in this particular crusade.”
And here, in this second part of a four part series the setting has been established, our extensive cast of characters introduced and we’re straight into the action. The Crusader army is in tatters and Gauthier of Flanders is struggling across a hostile and magical desert landscape to recruit possible allies, the Jews of Samaria, into his plan to retake Jerusalem.
But we’re also looking in on Lady Syria, Gauthier’s only real ally in the first volume who’s about to fall foul of her wicked sister, Elenore of Arcos, as she plots with her new lover; the Duke Of Taranto, to establish control over the remaining Christian Crusader army, a plot that requires Lady Syria to fall into the hands of a new threat.
Whilst all this is going on, manipulative Elenore has engaged the forces of the Master Of The Machines, a title that refers to his mechanised army, yet may equally apply to his body. Something else that we’ll find out in time…..
Such is the nature of Crusade – it’s absolutely full of deceit, plotting and shifting allegiences, our cast of characters continually plot and maneuver themselves, and there’s just so much going on through the slim 54 page volume that Dufaux’s attempt to advance his story on three main fronts, with minor plot points firing off all over the place, doesn’t quite work.
Everything just flies past a tad too quickly, the characters are thrown at us and it all moves just a little too fast, with not enough time to establish characterisation beyond the broadest of strokes.
But that’s a risk with a multi volume series where author attempts to build so much into the earlier volumes.
Artisticallly Xavier’s stuff still doesn’t completely engage with me. His figures seem a little static, but he’s growing on me, and he’s certainly capable of putting together some beautiful looking pages to go with his beautiful looking people that seem to be filling all the main roles in Crusade.
Individually Crusade is intriguing and enjoyable. I imagine, or at least I really do hope that, with all four volumes published ( vol 3 due July 2011, vol 4 in early 2012), Crusade will come together and become the story it is currently merely aspiring to be.
Because right now there’s just too big a gap between aspiration and attainment to make it really work.