Rex Mundi, Book One
The Guardian of the Temple
US: Jan 2004
Murder, Magic and Corruption… What More Could a Mystery Reader Ask For?
With no hesitation, I can say that Rex Mundi is better than the works of Richard Moore, Farel Dalrymple, Terry Moore and the countless other comic book writers/artists whom I admire. Okay, I’m exaggerating, Rex Mundi is not any better. EricJ, Arvid Nelson and Jeromy Cox are just as talented and creative as those other guys, but boy am I sprung. Everything from the writing and the artwork to the research and diligence this endeavor must have required makes this graphic novel a rare gem.
Rex Mundi, described on the website as “a murder mystery of biblical proportions”, is a blend of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel the DaVinci Code, the film-flop The Order, and a little bit of present-day American politics all rolled into one. The setting is Paris, 1933. The inquisition is not a thing of the past, but a very present order, which means the Catholic Church says what’s what and politics rule supreme. France, England, Russia, Prussia and the Holy Roman Empire are among the world’s superpowers, and the seemingly unquenchable desire for territory and resources are driven by a similitude of Manifest Destiny. And of course, the Church has its secrets—many of which revolve around the Holy Grail.
One curious priest, Father Gerard Marin, gets himself murdered for digging too deep into these secrets. Before being bumped off, he clues in an astute friend—Master Physician Julien Sauniere, who soon stumbles upon a ritualistic murder scene, underground passages and secret chambers. Next thing Sauniere knows, the Church, a mysterious former lover, and an eerie magician of sorts start showering him with attention.
Though the concept behind this graphic novel isn’t totally original, it is uniquely and cleverly executed. The story moves at a leisurely pace—even, unfortunately, during the chase scene at the end of the book. The dialogue is realistic, and each character truly has his or her own voice. One particular aspect of this cleverly executed graphic novel, are the newspaper inserts, which really strengthen the sense of setting and plot. Though fictional in nature, the inserts give a genuine feel to the story, and even includes actual photos of old Paris.
The artwork is sumptuously eerie and dark. EricJ’s illustrations are beautiful and painstakingly realistic, right down to the hair on Sauniere’s chest. The panel layout is also inventive, with no two pages ever looking alike. Ironically, the only slight turnoff is the depth of the coloring, which is at times too saturated. It’s ironic because the coloring completes the Rex Mundi package, for black and white wouldn’t have done it justice.
On the whole, Rex Mundi is not only a great piece of historical supernatural fiction because of the imaginary world it presents. From touching on anti-Semitism, sexism, secret societies, the struggle between Church and State, and the political pursuit of money and power, among other things, Rex Mundi is more than “a murder mystery of biblical proportions”. It is a timeless reflection of the actual world in which we live.