Huh. Well, that’s not what I was expecting.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I cracked the cover of Days Missing #4, but I really didn’t expect to find a mostly truthful account of Hernan Cortez’s conquest of the Aztecs in the year 1519. And that’s cool, really cool, because, you know, how many comics are there that tell the story of Spanish Conquistadores? It’s an interesting historical story, one of the more interesting events in history, and it’s really a pleasant surprise to see the depiction delivered in a way that was both compelling and true to the historical events.
I guess the hook in Days Missing as a series is that, as Matthew Brady discussed in his review of issues 2 and 3 of this series, than immortal humanoid alien (maybe?) observer known as “the Steward,” who has been living on Earth for millennia and has the technology to manipulate space-time in a way that can erase the events of a single day from history helping humans to avoid disasters and avert apocalypses.
But the Steward’s role in this comic was very interesting. He’s definitely an initiator of events, and is at the center of the action, but there’s a sense all throughout the story that the events depicted are inevitable. The power of Cortez’s ambitions is so powerful that it simply overwhelms any attempt to derail then. It doesn’t matter that the Steward burns Cortez’s ships; Cortez preservers because he’s too powerful not to perservere.
The comic is written by a guy named Matz, who Wikipedia informs me is a French comics and film writer whose real name is Alexis Nolent. Nolent delivers a story here that has an intriguingly European feel. There’s an interesting toning back of the violence and action in a way that feels different from American comics. There’s a lot of suspense and subtle excitement in the comic, but the battles don’t take center stage in the same way that you might see in an issue of Fantastic Four. Instead we get long, lingering shots of dramatic moments – there’s a spellbinding page in which the Steward sinks Cortez’s ships that is brilliantly rendered by artist Hugo Petrus.
I’m not familiar with Petrus either, but apparently he’s had scattered work for most of the major publishers over the years. His artwork here provides a nice contrast for the story, providing a sort of brooding intensity that gives the comic a real feeling of gravitas. The depictions of some crucial scenes are just gorgeous – the coloring by Imaginary Freinds does a wonderful job of depicting the several blazing fires depicted in this comic, for instance.
This comic was an ideal mix of fantasy and history. Matz had obviously thought deeply about the legacy of Cortez and the other explorers and does a good job of showing their very mixed legacies without flinching. At the same time, Metz gives readers a good sense of what the Steward is all about, showing us his motivations and how they don’t pay off in the way that he expects.
Huh, a comic about Hernan Cortez, What an interesting and cool comic it ended up being.