Rex Mundi #1 (Dark Horse)

Murder, magic, heresy, and the occult: My kind of alternaverse. 32 pgs FC; $2.99

(W: Arvid Nelson; A: Juan Ferreyra)

Papal secrets and betrayal spice the pages of Dark Horse's Rex Mundi #1, which is actually the nineteenth installment of a series originally published by Image Comics. Confused? Don't worry. You're not alone.

 

The cover to Rex Mundi #1 by JH Williams III. Click thumbnail for a larger imageWhat readers have is essentially a Holy Grail quest set as a murder mystery in an alternative 1933 where magic is real and the Reformation nonexistent. Arvid Nelson deserves some leeway for starting the new run without prefacing it, and one certainly can't expect him to squeeze eighteen comics worth of exposition into a single issue. No, folks, it's going to require a little extra work on the reader's part. Though, Nelson does make it a bit easier with his clever Le Journal de la Liberte, which includes information he couldn't otherwise find the panel space for.

 

And despite the reasonable confusion, the writing is still strong. Nelson illustrates the political climate with the Duke of Lorraine's seizure of the palace of Versailles while highlighting the story of Julien Saunière, a doctor in search of the fabled Grail who must defend himself against a tribunal that accuses him of accessing holy documents without church sanction. Aided by Father Eugene Calvet and physician Genevieve Tournon, Saunière makes an escape in what proves to be a mystical conclusion to a rather jarring introduction.

When it is stunning, Juan Ferreyra's artwork is so because of his attention to detail. The aspects of expression, the intricate masks worn by the goons flanking Saunière during the hearing, are especially poignant. Other times, however, the artwork takes on a flat, simplistic presentation before leaping back into full detail in scenes like Sir Charles Martel's suicide. The dynamism of Ferreyra's work, unfortunately, seems lacking, the movement of the panels flowing awkwardly killing much of the story's momentum. Kudos, though, to J.H. Williams III for some stellar cover art, the intricate pentagram-ed cross stamped across the smoky, noirish faces of a fascinating cast.

 

While it's certainly worth the read, readers might want to begin with the Image releases first, or if you're especially patient, follow the upcoming Dark Horse releases of the first eighteen issues in trade paperback. Or just pick up this one for a memorable sample of the whole. If you're truly patient, you might even stick it out until the film version arrives (looks like sometime in 2009).

Click here for a 4-page of Rex Mundi #1, courtesy of Dark Horse.

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