At the dawn of the fourteenth century, a disgraced inquisitor and his young disciple find themselves at the heart of a struggle for power between medieval Europe’s occult powers. From the roofs of Notre Dame to distant abbeys, they embark on a quest for the greatest mystery of all: The Third Testament.
Their mission is fraught with danger as everyone who knows of its existence is ready to fight to the death to recover this Testament, a scroll which could very well herald the start of a new Apocalypse. Quite simply, it is the light which will bring those who have strayed BACK to the True faith.
The Third Testament (Volume 1): Marc, the Lion Awakens is part one of a fantastic four part Franco-Belgium comic book series, written and illustrated by the talented pair of Xavier Dorison and Alex Alice. The series was first released back in 1997 in Europe, but only reached us locally here in 2004 thanks to the small-time publisher, Pepic & Kraus, the same house that was responsible for bringing the first Lanfeust print to our shores.
The genre is best described as medieval mystery, and the story itself takes place in the early1300s, a dark time for Europe when a corrupt Church was all powerful and the dreaded inquisition prowled people’s nightmares. The plot revolves around a mysterious scroll that appears to be wanted by all, and wanted badly enough that murder is merely a step in reaching that goal. A young woman named Elisabeth becomes embroiled in its saga after her high-ranking, adopted father is murdered and an old comrade of his resurfaces from the past, seemingly summoned thanks to the mystery that Elisabeth’s father had uncovered just before his death.
Now hunted by the law and by what seems to be the very Devil himself, Elisabeth and Conrad, the mysterious Count of Marbourg, race against time and their pursuers in order to solve the mystery of the mysterious scroll and take vengeance for her father’s murder.
Dorison lays out a very tightly scripted, well guarded and intriguing opening volume to this rather engaging saga and his writing seems to come through quite naturally and unforced. However, unfortunately as all I have is the English translation to go on, I can’t really comment much further than this on his particular writing skills.
Alex Alice on the other hand I can speak for days on. His particularly beautifully rendered visuals, especially his mountain and forest vistas, appear throughout the book and although his pencils are fairly simple in the number of lines on display, the magnificent blend with subtle and very clever, effective matt colouring makes for an absolute visual treat. His characters are all well drawn and kudos must be given for some brilliantly sketched horses in action, and then there is his knack for constantly shifting the camera angle over the length of any single page, moving effortlessly from high eye-in-the-sky shots to tight, close quarter angles, but always laying his images out in such a way that you never feel lost, even for an instant.
In short, this appears to be the start of an absolutely fascinating saga, one which I hope to one day be able to read in its completeness. The medieval mystery genre is a historical period and genre mix that American writers seldom explore, all of which makes The Third Testament (Volume 1): Marc, the Lion Awakens that much more of a thoroughly intriguing and enthralling read.
Definitely recommendable then.