The Crusade that is missing from history continues with its second book Qa'Dj, named for the demon that hid in the shadow of Christ's cross. After the massive battle of the first book this time around writer Jean Dufaux and artist Philippe Xavier focus their tale down onto several smaller groups of warriors.
After the Christian army's defeat in the desert in the last book, Gauthier of Flanders attempts to ally himself with a literally underground Jewish sect who fear a demon known as the Aa. Meanwhile Robert, Duke of Taranto, and his lover, Elenore of Arcos, tighten their political grip on the remnants of the Christian army and send Elenore's sister Syria to supposed safety in a desert oasis. Before Syria reaches there she is captured by Muslim bandits controlled by the grossly deformed Sarek Pasha and forced into his harem. Meanwhile Elenore has paid highly for the services of a mercenary army which has arrived lead by the man known simply as the Master of the Machines.
I love Xavier's covers of this series. At no point in this book or the previous one does Syria of Arcos stand holding a spear and the decapitated head of an enemy but that really doesn't matter. With the ghostly image of an astrolabe in the background this cover, like all the covers in this series, is striking in its focus on a single main character. Xavier's interior art is as good as in the first book and his choice of panel layouts remains as interesting as before.
Jean Dufaux's plot in this book alone has three story lines running more or less in parallel with different characters and that isn't even counting the main Muslim force from the first book controlled by Sultan Abdul Razim who just manages to squeeze in here as well. While each story is interesting and they no doubt will pull back together again in the future, the complexity of the book and the sheer number of characters that it takes in can be frustrating. I suspect that Crusade will work better when we have the chance to read all four books back to back and with the third book The Master Of The Machines due in July 2011 and the fourth book The Fire Breaks due in February 2012, Cinebook are already on course to make sure that we can.
While it may remain somewhat perplexing due to the sheer number of characters, Crusade - Qa'Dj continues the series complex but interesting storyline as well as its excellent art and remains a title to watch.
• The are more details of the Crusade books on the Cinebook website.
• There are more details of the original Croisade books on Le Lombard website (in French).
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