THE CRUSADES:
URBAN DECREE

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THE CRUSADES: URBAN DECREE - 2001
by Steven T. Seagle and Kelley Jones
Vertigo

"Evil to him who evil does."

So says the mysterious knight at the center of this story as he sets to work dispatching criminals with lance and blade.

This deluxe format, 48 page one-shot is actually a direct prequel to the series THE CRUSADES by the same creators.

Created by Steven T. Seagle (HOUSE OF SECRETS, UNCANNY X-MEN) and Kelley Jones (THE SANDMAN, BATMAN), with writing by Seagle and pencils by Jones, THE CRUSADES: URBAN DECREE tells of the sudden appearance of a strange armored figure mounted on a horse who murders criminals in the streets of San Francisco, particularly the henchmen of criminal mastermind The Pope. In this story, Howard Stern-like shock jock Anton Marx uses the knight as the centerpiece for his show to boost his already-climbing ratings.

Meanwhile, Marx's facts-checker for his daily newspaper column (as well as his supposed girlfriend), Venus Kostopikas, witnesses the Pope's men wiping out his rival, Tony Quetone. As they turn their guns on her, the knight rides in and cuts them down. The knight also disappears as suddenly as he appears, and at one point we get a glimpse of the knight's abode as he rides into the sewers and removes his gear amidst sweating pipes.

The origin of the knight has yet to be revealed, as are his motives. I see the slick format of the book as little more than a gimmick to get people to pick it up. The first issue just came out, and it picks up directly where this story ends. Furthermore, folks that pick up the first issue will see references to events in URBAN DECREE and, while they're not really being short-changed by a lack of explanation, there's no real reason for it.

Seagle's writing is solid, and far surpasses the artwork (more on that in a minute). The characters are interesting, and we are treated to the beginnings of a side story of the strange relationship between Marx and Venus. Seagle does a good job of capturing the attitudes and behavior of a stereotypical controversial radio show host in Marx's raving monologues and his treatment of callers.

Another nice twist is the way Venus's mind wanders when he's speaking to her. For instance, as she pursues Marx into the bathroom and speaks to him while he's on the toilet, the fact-checker side of her is already contemplating the history of the toilet in a set of quaint-looking, two-tone panels.

Crusades: Urban Decree

The art is not bad, but many characters come off as looking fairly ridiculous in certain instances. There are several exaggerated facial expressions that just plain look goofy, and in other sequences where the knight is laying about with his sword, there is a surprising lack of blood (for instance, in one panel the knight has driven his sword up through the bottom of a man's jaw, we see the blade in his mouth and the point has emerged from the top of his skull, but there is NO blood). In some cases, we get little splatters of grey matter.

Overall I'm not blown away, but the storyline has me sufficiently intrigued to keep reading for at least a few more issues of the regular series. I give THE CRUSADES: URBAN DECREE three rabid fanboys.

 

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Review copyright 2001 by E.C.McMullen Jr.

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