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Rex Mundi Book One: The Guardian of the Temple

By Geoff Hoppe
Jul 29, 2007 - 22:34


Fedoras and religious sorcery...where's Indiana Jones?
Paris, the Louvre, a powerful catholic church, and a guy named Sauniere. No, it’s not The DaVinci Code, it’s Arvid Nelson’s Rex Mundi, a comic book series that predates Dan Brown’s history-making novel.


In Rex Mundi Book One, Arvid Nelson introduces the reader to the mysterious and menacing world he created for the story. It’s 1933, but the Bourbon family still rules France, Hitler is nowhere to be seen, the Ottoman Empire has yet to fall, and the catholic Inquisition is covering up nasty messes left and right. Sorcery is real, and Madonna isn’t the only one making Kabbala-related mistakes.


The story opens when Dr. Julien Sauniere is visited by his friend Father Marin. A secret manuscript has been stolen from Marin’s library with no signs of tampering. Father Marin suspects foul play in the form of unlicensed sorcery. When Julien Sauniere finds the only other living person who knows of the document, she’s been horribly mutilated, strange writing inscribed all over her body.


As with his current series Zerokiller, Nelson has molded a thinking reader’s comic, complete with a strange and believable alternate history. Nelson’s world combines elements of Medieval, Enlightenment and nineteenth-century Europe into a fascinating could-have-been where the Inquisition still reigns and magic is a reality. At the back of each chapter (and each individual issue) Nelson provides a newspaper page that documents the issue’s events from a different point of view. The newspapers also flesh out the world he’s created, and are often the most interesting parts of the issue. Nelson’s use of the fourth estate mimics Alan Moore’s brilliant use of secondary documents in Watchmen. Nelson’s faux news articles are so good, in fact, that they occasionally overshadow the story.


Rex Mundi’s world is entertaining, but the reader wishes Nelson would incorporate his alternate history into the plotline more aggressively. In some chapters, he seems to separate Sauniere’s story from the alternate history, when a better blend of the two would make a stronger story. Nelson’s 1933 is a fascinating place that deserves a more integrated role in the story.


Penciler and inker EricJ, like Nelson, fashions an impressive world for his characters, but sometimes falters in drawing the characters themselves. He excels in moments of high tension, and his ability to make fear pulsate like a living organism makes Rex Mundi’s sense of dread all too real. He struggles when drawing common situations, and this problem makes the comic’s slow moments sag between the well-rendered action sequences.


Worth the money? I’d recommend finding a back issue, or current issue first, to get a better feel for the series. If it’s to your liking, you’ll be well rewarded by Rex Mundi’s consistent tone.

Last Updated: Jun 26, 2018 - 9:28

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