Musketeer on Mars (2008 & 2012)

last musketeerSo the trouble with Musketeer sequels, as opposed to adaptations of the original Three Musketeers, is that they’re kind of depressing. Instead of being about our boys at the height of their adventures, they are usually about the end of the story – either focusing on the next generation, and/or a reunion plot making it clear that the best fictional BFFs of all time have been sorely neglecting each other for years or even decades.

(Friendship stories based on the premise that the friends have gone their separate ways for most of their lives are the WORST friendship stories)

Also, unlike adaptations of the first volume of stories, and regardless of the original fictional fates, our boys tend to be somewhat expendable in the Gallery of What Maybe Happened Next.

As of the New Year, I’m opening up my Musketeer Media Monday posts to sequels as well as straight adaptations, to change it up a bit and keep it all fresh. However, I think you need to congratulate me, because I’m pretty sure I just found the most depressing Musketeer sequel of all time on my first try.

Seriously, I don’t want to be proven wrong on this one. Even that Leonardo Di Caprio Wears a Mask movie can’t be this depressing, right?

The Last Musketeer (2008) is a graphic novel by Jason, a Norwegian comic artist who is well known for his thoughtful, anthropomorphic animal characters, and his ‘silent movie’ style.

It’s modern day (ish) with a hint of retro. Porthos is (implied) dead, Aramis is a married professional and wants nothing to do with the Musketeer legacy, and no one even mentions D’Artagnan! Athos is sad, but he still wears his Musketeer outfit because he doesn’t want to forget who they were. There is no explanation as to why he and Aramis apparently have been alive since the seventeenth century. I guess Musketeering is good for the pores.

last-musketeer-02Our melancholy hero is slightly perked up when aliens attack from Mars, and he sets off to prevent the invasion, because that’s what humans do. Or, at least, Musketeers who are feeling like the world maybe didn’t need them for a while there.

What follows is a surreal and weirdly gentle tale that mashes up Flash Gordon and The Princess of Mars, with other retro sci-fi elements thrown in for good measure. My favourite character is the princess, who takes against her father (basically a subdued Ming the Merciless) and his plot, and seduces then bullies the captain of the palace guards into being her accomplice in saving the day.

She’s casually awesome and competent, as well as being utterly rude to everyone. She’s a complete deconstruction of Princess Aura and the other space princess types. There’s nothing super bad-ass about this princess, she’s not magically special, she’s just sarcastic and works hard when she commits to a project, like saving the Earth or rescuing Athos from the dungeon.

Some of the most glorious parts of this story are the – well, the quiet moments, though really it’s wall to wall quiet moments. My favourite is where Athos battles a robot, then gets caught because he stopped to bury the body. Because that’s what civilised men do.

For all my bewilderment, I will admit, this is a gorgeous Athos. Angst + loyal dedication to duty = Musketeer.

A mysterious human stranger in the space palace on Mars turns out to be – who else – Count Rochefort. I’m not sure why Athos is supposed to have a particular grudge against Rochefort (that’s D’Artagnan, mostly!) but their sword fight is a gorgeously underplayed series of panels which made me smile.

And, you know, #rochefortlives is always a winner for me.

The ending is so miserable, I could hardly believe it, but it matched the tone of the overall book, and pretty much made me want to cuddle Musketeers and bake them cookies. Forever.

Sigh.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE

Athos America“Athos in America” (2012) is the title novella in a collection of Jason’s work, and it’s a prequel to The Last Musketeer, set in 1920’s Hollywood.

Seriously, Musketeers can live forever? And if so, what DID happen to Porthos?

This one has less swashbuckling, but also less crippling sadness, so I liked it rather more – it’s a character piece between Athos and a friendly bartender, with the funny!tragic tale of Athos’ attempts to make it in Hollywood, with a side order of his appalling luck with women.

By now I was a lot more accustomed to Jason’s restrained, deadpan style of comics, to the point of feeling quite nostalgic about his Athos, and it was a pleasant read. My favourite part, however, was the opening which shows him playing the superhero/vigilante protector on the streets of New York, and I would have definitely liked a more substantial story which played with those tropes in a similar way to the Princess on Mars riffs in The Last Musketeer.

All in all – if there’s a word for a story that is both melancholy and adorable, then The Last Musketeer and its prequel “Athos in America” are melanchorable. Melancholable?

If you’re going to present a Musketeers story with almost no Musketeers in it, but you are also going to give me a sad, introspective Athos downing wine and performing slow, surreal banter in a bar where nobody knows his name, then… well, yes. It’s almost as good as the real thing.

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This Musketeer Media Monday post is brought to you by the paid sponsors of Musketeer Space, all 50+ of them. You guys rule! Previous posts in this series include:

Musketeers in an Exciting Adventure With Airships (2011)
Musketeers Are All For Love (1993)
Looks Good in Leather: BBC Musketeer Edition Part I (2014)
You Can Leave Your Hat On: BBC Musketeer Edition Part II (2014)
It’s Raining Musketeers: BBC Musketeer Edition Part III (2014)
Mickey Mouse the Musketeer (2004)
Musketeers Crack Me Up Seventies Style (1973)
Musketeer in Pink (2009)
Musketeers Break My Heart Seventies Style (1974)
Musketeers in Technicolour (1948)

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