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Rex Mundi #8

Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2004
By: Olivia Woodward



Writer: Arvid Nelson
Artist: Eric J

Publisher: Image

Synopsis:
Dr. Sauniere has stumbled across yet another gruesome murder in the deMedici offices. Even the mighty are expendable in preserving the secrets of the Templars. But what of the scent of sulfur and sandalwood that pervades the crime scene? Again, traces of the supernatural continue to enter into the periphery of Sauniere's investigation.

A bizarre temple within the Parisian sewers, a encrypted scroll with information about the Templars, a painting by Poussin, the words "Rex Mundi" drawn in blood, a plain gold ring and a key clutched in a dead man's grasp, these disparate clues all relate to the mysterious chain of murders that Sauniere is trying to resolve. While he tries to understand this enigmatic information, Dr. Genevieve Tournon is having a fine time. At La Tour D'Argent she's enjoying a fine meal with the warmongering Duke of Lorraine; later, she's his guest at the Opera.

But Genevieve is no fool. The beautiful life of France's high nobility covers dark secrets. And, perhaps, the secrets behind the Duke are the darkest of all. The façade of amiability may be covering a serpent-like guile and venomous spirit.

Critique:
"Everyone connected with the theft of the scroll was now dead. Save me."

The writing of this title is always of high quality. In terms of plot management, the reader can expect a new twist and more intriguing clues each issue. There is never a slow moment. This is especially impressive when considering the recherché subject matter under investigation, like the magical properties of ancient Hebrew or decoding encrypted medieval scrolls. There is a fine cinematic use of scene framing that holds the reader's interest throughout the issue.

The characters are expertly portrayed through dialogue. Each has a unique voice within the narrative, with consistent mannerisms and qualities, such as Genevieve's fervent expressiveness or Rabbi Maiselles' mellow and amiable pensiveness. Over the course of this series, the consistency of their portrayal has given these characters a feeling of having a life off the page. The characters are convincing, and, therefore, carry an emotional involvement. In short, the reader cares for them and their safety. When Sauniere is in danger, the reader has a visceral concern for him. When Genevieve has a worried expression as she looks out the window, the reader has empathy with her situation.

Of course, the writing is only half the story. The wonderful artwork is just as powerful at expressing the characters. Through articulate facial expressions and telling stance depiction, the characters are given narrative immediacy. Lorraine's empty smile, Rabbi Maiselles' handling of his spectacles, the dramatic use of shadow, through attention to such fine details of a scene, the art conveys character and the underlying mood of the story.

Appraisal:
”Nasty job. Would have made a forensics master cringe.”

Well, that's a most inappropriate quote for summing up this issue, which was an absolutely excellent job that would please any enthusiast of fine "mystery" stories. In terms of high adrenaline action or hair-raising tension, this issue was a bit subdued. However, it was still a rich and enthralling read. I'm eager for the next installation and am darn happy that this is now a monthly.

I've been extolling the qualities of this title for a little while now. In case you haven't noticed my enthusiasm for it before, allow me to write clearly about my feelings for it. This is one of the best comics in publication, a "must read" if you have even the slightest interest in the "mystery" genre. The writing is top-notch and the art is likewise of superb quality. Do yourself a favor and check it out.



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