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Pax Romana #2

Posted: Monday, March 10, 2008
By: Geoff Collins

Jonathan Hickman
Jonathan Hickman
Image Comics
The pacing of this issue was a lot faster then what the previous issue was. In this one, they reveal the agenda of General Chase and why he killed the Cardinal at the end of the first issue by showing two pages formatted as a transcript, which Iím not a fan of. Chaseís men then kill all of the rivals to Constantine in the time leading up to him becoming Caesar so that he can become Caesar 11 years early. Though I liked the issue a lot, there are problems with it that I think will narrow its audience.

What drew me to it was the art style, which I like, but itís so different from what other artists are doing that itís going to turn off people as well. There are colors in it, but the style is one that only requires two tones. The colors that are used are splashed around and clearly not there to make it more lifelike and realistic - in fact they have the opposite affect. Hickmanís goal in the coloring seems to be to control the readerís focus to specific parts of a scene and to reflect the emotion of the characters. Even the shading used to create the characters plays on the psychological side, if you compare the villainous time traveling anti-heroes like Chase to the characters who arenít out of place like Constantine, the anti-heroes are more shadowy and little of their faces is really shown. Chaseís face is hidden behind a huge beard that makes his silhouette similar to Fidel Castro.

Limiting its audience even more is the pretension of the concept of the book. Itís a historically accurate book, but to keep the pacing bearable Hickman has to blow over details of the history. Being a history buff, I like it and went and did some research about the characters to better understand the story. But how many people are riveted by ancient Roman history?

Licinius appears in this issue and is one of the characters that I think needs more explaining. He was an ally of Constantine for a long time, but there isnít historical evidence to indicate how close they actually were (likely their alliance was for political reasons, not because they were pals as Pax Romana insinuates) but eventually became rivals and went to war twice.

In the battle of Tzirallum that also appears in this issue, Licinius defeated Maximin so dominantly that no one attempted to rebel against Licinius again. In Pax Romana, the battle is won by men from the future when both armies are flanked by, ďTwo helicopters, three tanks, four armored vehicles and fifty 2-man sniper teams.Ē They kill Licinius and Maximin to make Constantine the undisputed ruler of the Roman Empire.

In real history, the first war between Licinius and Constantine was about a year or two after this issue was set and ended in a truce after several close battles. Almost ten years later, Licinius started a second rebellion where Constantine routed his armies twice before Licinius turned himself over and was executed. Constantine even executed Liciniusí son a year later.

Following the fictional victory, Constantineís half sister, who married Licinius shortly after Tzirallum in real life, is introduced. Since her marriage in real life was likely to ďpublicly formalizeĒ the alliance between Constantine and Licinius, Constantine proposes that she marry one of Chaseís men to do the same. In this case, she marries Fabio Rossi who seems to be Chaseís right hand man.

Constantia was less then half the age of Licinius when they got married. Sheís not as prominent of a historical figure as the other characters so I didnít find much about her. In the wars between Licinius and her half-brother Constantine, she took Liciniusí side but still had loyalty to Constantine. When Licinius turned himself over, she got Constantine to take an oath to not execute him, but within months Constantine executed him anyway. Despite the executions of her husband and son, she was one Constantineís advisers and had him at her side as she died.

Learning those things makes the issue a lot more interesting to me. But I donít think Iím in the majority of enjoying looking that up. Whatís more is that there are some things that the average person isnít going to know off the top of their head. To understand a lot of this you need to know general facts about Roman history, its ancient culture, and how the Empireís government worked at that time. This is definitely an acquired taste, but well worth it if you have that taste.



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