Published on January 21st, 2016 | by Steven Roman
Review: Rex Mundi, Book One: The Guardian of the Temple
Alternate histories have always been a compelling draw for writers and readers alike—the opportunity to explore what-if scenarios of world events: What if the Axis powers had won World War II? What if the South’s Confederate Army had won America’s Civil War? What if the Roman Empire had never fallen? Author Harry Turtledove—called “The Master of Alternate History” by Publishers Weekly—has made a career from writing novels about such issues. Amazon’s acclaimed dramatic series The Man in the High Castle is an adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel about a Nazi-controlled America.
So now that you’ve got a little background on the subject, let me introduce you to the world of Rex Mundi.
Rex Mundi, Book One: The Guardian of the Temple, written by Arvid Nelson (Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris, Lords of Mars), illustrated by Eric J, and published by Dark Horse Books, explores the concept of a murder mystery wrapped in a quest for a holy relic, wrapped in the meticulous dressing of an alternate-universe Earth in which magic is real and the Catholic Church seems to be the be-all and end-all of political power. Here we find Julien Saunière, a physician living in 1930s Paris who’s drawn into this deadly mystery. And though there are obstacles aplenty in his way, Saunière’s desire to get to the bottom of things is motivated by the death of a close friend, and not even the Church is going to interrupt his quest for justice…unless they have him killed, of course…
Storywise, Nelson does more than provide an engrossing mystery—he also wrote a series of “newspaper articles” that appear at the end of each chapter that add depth to this world he’s created. Fans of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen will be familiar with this sort of attention to world-building, and therefore should feel right at home in the world of Rex Mundi.
Artwise, Eric J’s style is wonderful, though it takes a little getting used to—it’s detail-oriented, bringing the environments to almost three-dimensional life, but his figurework is a little stiff, and a majority of the characters at times seem to stand about seven feet tall. Still, his storytelling skills are top-notch, and his artwork will rivet your attention as much as Nelson’s story.
Bottom line? With its intricate mystery, painstaking detail to world-building, and equally detailed art, lovers of multilayered thrillers, as well as fans of Moore’s League, should definitely check out Rex Mundi, Book One—as well as the other five books in this graphic novel series.
Rex Mundi, Book One: The Guardian of the Temple
Written by Arvid Nelson
Art by Eric J
Cover art by Juan Ferreyra
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
204 pages • full-color
Originally published in 2006