The latest issue of this time-spanning adventure series takes readers to the great accidental fire in Alexandria in 48 BCE, when vast amounts of the knowledge that had been accumulated up to that time was lost in the most horrific fire that has ever happened.
Our immortal protagonist the Steward tries in vain first to prevent the invasion that would spark the fire at the great library, and then try to persuade the attendants of the Library of Alexandria to save what they could from the fire. It's not a spoiler to say that the protagonist fails once again in his attempts. It's part of the raison d'etre of this character that he finds himself at pivot points in history. He should be able to change history, but inevitably failure follows him. It's the accumulated weight of those failures that make him such an intriguing character. He's a herald whose work is important and righteous, but whose work is continually doomed to failure.
Even his encounter with a second immortal being, Kestus, does little but confuse the situation. Kestus sees herself as the Steward's equal, but he sees himself as her superior in several ways. He sees and feels things deeply while she has a more shallow view of the events that happen around here. That dichotomy has driven much of the drama of the first two issues of this series and almost certainly will drive future issues as well.
Despite the multiple tragedies that happen in this issue, it does end with a touch of hope, as a young child who is wide well beyond her years provides hope for humanity. The girl is the warmest and most interesting character in this story – open to the world, curious and optimistic despite all that she sees, the girl is a living symbol of mankind's boundless ability to survive hardship.
I thought Marquez's art was interesting but didn't serve the story especially well. A story like this, which is so definitely set in a very specific and long-lost time-period, deserves complex and interesting backgrounds to set the scene. As a reader I felt the desperate need to feel like I was standing in the Library in Alexandria as the Steward and Kestus were. I wanted the shelves to feel alive with the quest for knowledge and the weight of accumulated wisdom. Unfortunately, the artwork lacks a strong sense of backgrounds, and the feeling of vastness that Marquez gives the library alienated me from the setting rather than dropping me into the setting.
It's a shame because I've always dreamed of feeling like I was actually in the Library at Alexandria. As a student of the classics, I've dreamed of being surrounded by the vast knowledge of the classical Greeks, and feeling like I could experience a lost world. Hester’s writing brings some of the atmosphere of the place to life. Unfortunately, the art in this comic didn't bring me any closer to that world.
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