Deep within the mountains of northern Spain lies a hidden temple. Here, the secret order known as the Knights of Heliopolis labor to shepherd the destiny of humanity and guide them towards enlightenment. As selective as they are secretive, the Knights of Heliopolis make up for their lack of numbers in divine power, having mastered true and holy alchemy and acquired the secret of long life.
Set in an alternate 18th century, the story opens as the ten Knights of Heliopolis on Earth are preparing to induct a new member to their order, a youth known to them only as Seventeen. After Seventeen completes the final trial to secure their place among them, Seventeen’s master, Fulcanelli, reveals the secrets that made it necessary for him to hide Seventeen’s identity and origins from the rest of the Knights. For Seventeen is Louis XVII, the secret child of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI of France!
This is a matter of great import, as the Knights of Heliopolis’s gifts include the power of prophecy. Their dogma speaks of the coming need for a warrior who must balance both the masculine and feminine aspects of themselves—along with body and soul—to save the world from the Knights’ greatest mistake, a would-be emperor now known as Napoleon, who has corrupted their guidance and teachings in a bid to make himself into an immortal god-king that will rule the Earth forever! In addition to their royal lineage, Seventeen is also of great interest due to being intersex (within the text referred to by the historical term “hermaphrodite”).
The Knights of Heliopolis is an interesting graphic novel that is hard to pin down into a single genre. It is a work of alternative history and includes several historical figures among its cast, yet it is far more fanciful than most alternate history works. Yet those fantastic elements and the Alchemy employed by the Knights are based on real-world mystic traditions. It also draws upon several literary works, most notably The Man in the Iron Mask. Throw in a little bit of science-fiction in the fourth and final chapter (as the Knights are revealed to have acquired their knowledge from ancient aliens) and you have a book whose setting is both familiar in many respects yet uniquely its own beast.
The script by Alejandro Jodorowsky is more concerned with mythology than character development. The Knights do not get much in the way of personality apart from Louis XVII. Even then, their chief conflict centers around their belief that they are destined to destroy Napoleon yet love him as a fellow mutant manipulated by fate. Thankfully, the story is engaging, and the ideas put forth intriguing.
The artwork by Belgian artist Jérémy is simply stunning. Intricately detailed and beautifully colored, Jérémy does a fantastic job of depicting the various period costumes as the story progresses from the French Revolution through World War II. The action sequences are well-blocked and even the static conversations seem eternally active.
Knights of Heliopolis is rated for audiences 17+ and that is a fair rating. The book is full of sex and violence and does not shy away from the gritty details of both. There is full frontal nudity of men and women, several sexual assaults and severely grisly deaths and dissections. This book is not for children or the faint of heart, but it is memorable and well worth reading if you are a fan of alternative history tales.
Knights of Heliopolis
By Alejandro Jodorowsky
Art by Jérémy
Titan Comics, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 17+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Creator Representation: Belgian, Chilean, French
Character Representation: French, Bisexual, Intersex