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Graphic Novel Review: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, adapted by Bruce Buchanan, illlustrated by Amit Tayal

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Alexandre Dumas’ timeless adventure romance, The Three Musketeers, is now available in a graphic novel adaptation from Campfire Classics. With a text by Bruce Buchanan and illustrations by Amit Tayal, Dumas’ epic tale of love, treachery and intrigue in the court of Louis XIII is whittled down from more than six hundred pages in some translations to a sixth of that length, a more palatable length for the young adult audience the Campfire series targets. More importantly, the major elements of the story are intact.

Beginning with the young hero, d’Artagnan’s arrival in Paris and his accidental contre temps with the eponymous three musketeers which promise him three duels with some of the best swordsmen in France and his eventual acceptance into the musketeers, the story follows him in his quest to save the Queen from the machinations of the villainous Prime Minisiter, Cardinal Richelieu and his lovely accomplice, Milady. It is a story that moves with as fast a pace as any summer blockbuster. It is a tale that has captured youthful imaginations for many years and is sure to continue doing so for many more.

Its characters are larger than life. Athos, Porthos and Aramis are the avatars of the hard living, devil may care swashbucklers that have become the staples of the modern adventure story. Richelieu is as slimey a political schemer as has graced the pages of any current thriller. Milady is the model of evil embodied in beauty. D’Artagnan is the naïf fresh out of the country meeting with the wicked temptations of the larger world, and demonstrating how innocent goodness can overcome all obstacles and get the best of the evil sophisticates.

Unfortunately, Amit Tayal’s versions of the characters, unlike other Campfire editions I’ve seen, are more like Disney caricatures than the grittier norm. D’Artagnan is drawn in the tradition of characters like Pecos Bill and other Disney young innocents, only a bit more on the angular side. There are the big round good guys like Athos and the big round bad guys like the landlord Bonancieux. There are a lot of funny mustaches. The faithful Constance could have been a Disney princess if she had a fancier costume. Milady, of course, but even the evil Richelieu, both have overtones of the evil Disney queens. There are even a couple of cats putting in an appearance in a panel or two that wouldn’t find themselves out of place in a Disney cartoon. I don’t know that all this is necessarily a bad thing given the target audience, although I do think the grittier illustration might be more appropriate for the content.

A word or two about the content: some parents may find elements of the story unsuitable for young readers. Adultery and infidelity play a large role in the motivation of the action, and although the adaptation minimizes the sexuality of the narrative, it is impossible to eliminate it entirely. Certainly while there is nothing overt in the presentation of the material, and while what is there will more than likely go over the head of most youngsters, parents might want to look it over to see if they have any objections.

Like other Campfire editions, The Three Musketeers begins with a short biographical sketch of the author. There is an introductory page with illustrations of all the major characters. An appendix containing miscellaneous information related to the story and its contents closes the book. In this case there is information on things like the historical novel, the historical characters, and the term musketeer. It provides a little fodder for any child whose appetite has been piqued by the story.

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