Originally published in Synthesis Weekly: June, 2009
Well it's finally happened. School's out, and the students are gone. Finally. The streets are no longer littered with them, killing time between classes with trips to Starbucks, Pita Pit, and every other downtown establishment. No more furry yeti boots paired with Chico State sweatpants, no more self entitled students on every block. There's finally parking again, and the bars are no longer swarming with them. I've often wondered what it would be like if Chico State weren't in Chico, or at least on the outskirts of town instead of smack dab in the middle of everything. Sure, the downtown businesses would probably suffer, but what if new, different crowds were brought downtown? The “what if's?” can go on forever, and I suppose we'll probably never know the answer.
Comics are all about the “what if's?”. What if superpowers were real? What if the characters from fairy tales were living among us? What if the Catholic Church had never lost it's iron grip on Europe? The latter question is the focus of the comic up for discussion this week. Rex Mundi was originally published by Image Comics, then moved to Dark Horse Comics in 2006. It was created by Eric J and Arvid Nelson, and drawn by Juan Ferreyra. The art is very dark with sharp lines, and was a major part of what drew me to it in the first place.
When Arvid Nelson was brought on board to help film a documentary in Paris, he came up with the idea to create Rex Mundi. “It was the first time I had been to Europe and it radically changed my view of the world. All the history that had seemed to dull and remote in high school became suddenly visceral and alive.”
And there certainly is history everywhere within those pages. The story is an alternate reality set in Europe, with a holy grail-esque mystery driving the storyline. After a priest is murdered, a friend of his, a doctor, tries to hunt down the killer and ends up stumbling upon much more than he bargined for. In this reality it's 1933 and magic exists, feudalism was never crushed and the Roman Catholic Church rules it all. “Rex Mundi” is translated as “King of the World” in Latin. One of the most interesting things about this look at an alternate reality, is that it takes a very in depth look at what life in Europe would truly be like if the Church was still in power. Although magic is flourishing, the growth of fashion and technology has been stunted, held down by the overbearing Roman Catholic Church. Just like so many other comics on the market today, it's been optioned for a movie, and the rumor mill says Johnny Depp was set to be both a producer and play the leading role.
Six volumes total are currently available for purchase, so pick up one (or six) at your local comic slingin' shop.