Wednesday, 14 November 2012

So I Read Pax Romana

A 250 word or less review of the Pax Romana graphic novel
By Jonathan Hickman, Image Comics

Time travel stories are a staple of genre fiction and comic books. Typically, these stories are built around a few general plots: accidental time travelers try not to alter history, or our heroes try to prevent a villainous entity from changing the past, or time travelers attempt to alter a single event in history (often a personal one) usually with dire consequences. These stories often play with ideas of causality and the paradox of traveling through time and generally portray fiddling with past events as irresponsible or immoral. Pax Romana says fuck all that, let's “destroy the past to create the future”. The plot of Pax Romana, briefly, is that a group of time travelers decide to disregard their orders and prevent the fall of the Roman Empire in an attempt to engineer the conditions for a better present/future. The writing in the book is characteristically excellent with the particulars of the story being very intellectually satisfying and with some reveals being jaw-droppingly clever. Visually Pax Romana, being a solo Hickman enterprise, is a kind of deconstructed comic book with a generous application of white space that, by making liberal use of timelines, transcribed conversations, and other trappings of textbooks, appears to be a kind of alternate history teaching manual. This is a visually dynamic book built around a great high concept and executed with a brilliant eye for details. Also, if anyone invents a time machine, I suggest we give the chrono-tunneling-initiatrix-controls to Hickman… for the good of humanity.

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