This was the beginning of the end for the regular reprint series at DC, as DC SPECIAL went from being all-reprint to half-new, half-reprint, a format that the FAMILY books had for the most part been following. Which sounds like a good thing, but not so much from my point of view; I tended to like the reprinted 1960s stories better than the modern stuff. I also had zero interest in the Three Musketeers and Robin Hood–this comic was bought for my brother Ken, who had an interest in Robin Hood stemming from the Disney animated version.
If I had to take a guess, I’d conjecture that it must have been the Salkind-produced THREE- and FOUR MUSKETEERS movies that suggested to somebody at DC that a new series focusing on the Musketeers might have legs. It ran for a number of issues of DC SPECIAL until the series became completely new material and rotated between different features. This comic kicked around at my house for many years–I had so little interest in the Musketeers that even I didn’t really want it when my brother grew bored with it. I can remember it sitting around in an unfinished room upstairs for the longest time.
Looking back at it, though, it’s actually a pretty good effort. The artwork has a strong European influence to it, and Denny O’Neil’s script is fun. This was a period in which the success of CONAN in comics had everybody pursuing other barbarian or sword-playing heroes, another reason perhaps for the decision to do the Musketeers here. The fantastical nature of the story is more in line with what you might find in a Sword and Sorcery title.
The story opens with the Musketeers riding through France on a mission to deliver a vital treaty document when they come upon a coach that’s been set upon by highwaymen. The four swordfighters make short work of the would-be bandits, showing off their individual personalities as they do so–only to be told that the highwaymen had been coerced into attacking the coach by a monstrous creature.
The Musketeers go in pursuit of the hairy monster but instead come upon Genevieve Du Bois, whom they agree to escort back to town. As they enjoy an evening of drink and good food, the boys are set upon by the beast, who appears strong as a bull and is impervious to the point of a sword. As his fellows hold the creature off, D’Artagnan escapes through the window with the treaty, ultimately eluding the beast’s pursuit.
The next day, the Musketeers and Genevieve journey to Calais, where a ship awaits the woman and the swordsmen are to meet the Spanish Ambassador to deliver the treaty. D’Artagnan is dispatched with the document, but before he arrives he’s attacked by the creature, who nearly kills him and makes off with the treaty. But D’Artagnan has observed an important clue to the beast’s true identity.
Of course, Genevieve is the monster–it wears the same magic pendant that D’Artagnan has noticed about her neck. The Musketeers make for Du Bois’ ship, getting there before it can cast off and engaging the creature, who is really a spy working for the British attempting to prevent the signing of the treaty with Spain. Agile D’Artagnan is able to knock the monster off the boat and into the ocean, subduing it, the treaty is delivered, Genevieve is captured, and everything wraps up just a shade too neatly.
The first reprinted back-up is another pretty art job, this one by the great Joe Kubert. In this story, reminiscent of many a short 6-page Green Arrow tale, Robin Hood uses a kite to carry him over the walls of Prince John’s castle so that he can rescue King Richard.
The second reprint is illustrated by Ross Andru, and isn’t quite as elegant, though it’s solidly and entertainingly drawn. It tells the tale of how the Earl of Huntingdon first adopted the name and guise of Robin Hood–an origin story like so many other super hero origin stories that came before it. (Though, technically, the particulars of this specific story predated all of them.)