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Rex Mundi #6

Posted: Sunday, November 2, 2003
By: Olivia Woodward



Writer: Arvid Nelson
Artist: Eric J

Publisher: Image

Synopsis:
A conspiracy that dates back eight hundred years to the time of the Crusades and the founding of the Knights Templar is what Dr. Julien Sauniere is starting to pursue. How does this medieval mystery fit into the rash of murders into which he has been drawn to investigate? How is the powerful and imperialistic Duke of Lorraine connected to this conspiracy? What answers can be found within the secret library of the Madeleine?

This issue has answers, but they only lead to further questions. The Temple of Solomon, Poussin's enigmatic motto "Et in Arcadia Ego," and the dark secrets of a heretical sect are among a vast sea of mystery, through which Sauniere must swim if he would see justice brought to the people behind the murders. But that which he does not know can hurt him, dragging him under the waves of shadowy evil, another victim of the greed of ambitious men.

Critique:
"Will you stop worrying? I know what I'm getting into."

Every issue this series gets better, as the mystery unfolds with expert plot development and a fine sense of mood and pacing. We pick up this issue on the morning after the point where last issue ended, Sauniere is ready to pick up the strands that he's uncovered and get back to the investigation. Regardless of his sore shoulder, he's ready to go. So too is the writing of this issue; no time is wasted in a "pause" between story arcs. No tension bleeds off with a bland "regroup" story.

The plot and mood stay focused. A few bright moments with the heroic street urchins, then Sauniere is back at work, parsing out the mysteries of the Templars and sneaking into hidden libraries. The quality of story structure here is amazing; in spite of the normal lapses inherent to the serial format of sequentials, Nelson perfectly maintains the narrative tautness required of a top-notch detective story.

Moreover, the story continues to build upon the richness of the setting and characters. The urchin's tell their tale with childish fervor, Genevieve frets over Sauniere's relentlessness, and Lorraine relates his family history with suave charm that turns steely with unshakable resolution. These characters are convincing in their depth and diversity.

Likewise, the setting is compelling. From the apples outside of Lorraine's "cottage" to the owl-like gargoyles adorning the arches of the secret library, the places depicted in this story feel real in their vivid portrayal. Furthermore, the richness of the setting creates a narrative pacing itself, altering in mood from loud storytelling to furtive research to ominous but genteel conversation. Not much cinematic action is to be found in this issue, but it doesn't need plot pyrotechnics to shine.

The art plays a huge part in the success of this issue. The setting is wonderfully detailed. The facial expressions are vivid. The panel compositions are well structured, with subtle control of motion and rest through expert balance and pacing. When Sauniere and Genevieve take a walk in the park, it actual reads as if they're walking, not standing in front of a changing backdrop.

Appraisal:
This is an excellent issue of a superb title. This is the tightest detective series around, with tantalizing drifts into arcane conspiracy and paranormal activity. If you enjoy thrilling mysteries and moody locales, this title is made for you.

Hidden temples in the sewers of Paris, ancient conspiracies among the highest of nobles, and the lurking threat of the Inquisition are just some of the elements that make Rex Mundi a wonderful read. However, at its heart, this is a story about a man who will uncover any secret to see justice served. It is this focus that makes for a riveting tale.



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