[ExI] Pax Romana touted as new Transhumanist Comic

James Clement clementlawyer at hotmail.com
Wed Oct 17 01:39:04 UTC 2007


by Andy Khouri, Staff Writer 

October 16, 2007 -

"Pax Romana" #1 on sale November 28

Readers of Image Comics' "The Nightly News" are already familiar with
creator Jonathan Hickman's penchant for iconoclasm, both in terms of his
startlingly original comic book artwork as well as his exquisite
eviscerations of conventional wisdom, authority and more or less anything we
tend to consider "truth." Having spilled quite a lot of blood on the
newsroom floor in his debut work, Hickman's next subject is one even more
complex than The Media itself. 

Written and lavishly illustrated by Hickman, November's "Pax Romana"
continues the author's exploration of cultural and philosophical constructs
in an ambitious tale of religious strife, epic wars, time travel across
millennia and --simply enough-- how to build a "perfect" society. CBR News
reconnected with Hickman to learn all he had to teach us about "Pax Romana."

"'Pax Romana' takes place in a future when Islam has overrun Western Europe
and monotheism is on the wane in the East and the West," Jonathan Hickman
told CBR News. "There's a breakthrough. They discover time travel in a
scientific lab that's secretly funded by the Vatican. The pope sends a
private army back in time to conquer the world and maintain the dominance of
"Obviously, it's a very small, personal story about finding yourself." 

Into the time of the first Christian emperor, Constantine, go five thousand
of the future's most heavily armed and genetically enhanced crusaders, with
enough religious zeal to match their enormous guns. Led by cardinals of the
Pope's own choosing, the time-traveling Vatican army fights to save the
future by destroying the past. "And all of their plans go wrong," Hickman

Their explicit goal nothing less than to keep the Roman Empire from
crumbling to dust, the players of "Pax Romana" are faced with challenges so
tremendous and decisions so terrible, to examine them too closely is all but
stupefying. But in the best tradition of science fiction, "Pax Romana" seeks
to expose in the most meaningful terms why this massive endeavor would or
would not work. 

"What kind of mentality would it take to build a 'perfect society?'" said
Hickman of the "Pax Romana" cast, which is a varied group of cardinals,
generals, popes, a child emperor and of course Constantine himself. "There
aren't any good guys, I didn't write any good guys. [laughs] There are
people that believe in things, but it doesn't mean they're believing in the
right things. 

"What starts off as a religious crusade turns into a social experiment,
except these guys are deadly serious and they're going to be committed to it
for the rest of their lives. Their kids are going to be committed to it. 

"If you're going to build a 'perfect society' you have to compromise along
the way because you can't be concerned with the Individual; with the humans
around you. You have to be worried about the larger human group. In other
words, would you allow slavery to continue for a period of time because you
need to build an infrastructure and a sewage system so you don't get the
black plague and stuff like that? 'Pax Romana' is tough questions like
Hickman was inspired in the creation of "Pax Romana" by the celebrated
author Frank Herbet, most specifically his novel "God Emperor of Dune."
"That's one of the inspirations for it," Hickman said. "The other one is I
just really wanted to do a time travel story!" 

"The Nightly News" was heavily informed by an intense crash course in
journalism, politics and statistics. Hickman has similarly prepared himself
for "Pax Romana" with a prodigious study of history, geography, geology and
philosophy. "I've been reading a lot of Hegel," Hickman said. "A lot of 'The
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire' by Edward Gibbon, and
all the armory books I can get a hold of so I can learn what they used to
wear back then and what the social practices were. I've been doing a lot of
research about the geographic changes of the state of Rome over the 300-year
period of the fall of the Roman Empire and trying to figure out how I would
consolidate borders and stuff like that." 

Given Hickman's highly distinctive art style, comparisons between "Pax
Romana" and "The Nightly News" will be inevitable, but Hickman believes his
new book surpasses the visual richness of his superlative debut. "'Pax
Romana' is going to be, obviously, graphic design-heavy," explained Hickman.
"But the 'graphic designy' stuff will be more 'graphic designy' and the art
will be more analogue, if that makes sense. So instead of it being just
trendy pop graphic design, it's going to be a lot more 'cutting edge' than
just black and white line art. It's going to be painted in some places, a
multimedia kind of thing, kind of a collage in some spots." 

In terms of story comparison, Hickman says, "The scope [of 'Pax Romana'] is
about the same [as 'The Nightly News']. Even though it may be a grander
scale, I think I'm still trying to tell a story on multiple levels. I think
that is true. I think I'm trying to tell a story that has multiple themes as
well as an overarching narrative." 

"The Nightly News" represented for Jonathan Hickman a total commitment to
professional comicbookery, and the auspicious newcomer has loads more to
say. "Pax Romana" debuts barely two months after "The Nightly News" graphic
novel collection hit stores; Hickman contributed to Image's hotly
anticipated "Popgun" anthology; and as previously reported on CBR News, "A
Red Mass for Mars" follows in December, and is Hickman's first work to be
illustrated by another artist, the emerging talent Ryan Bodenheim (Hickman
will provide color art). And in March of 2008, Hickman plans to release
"Transhuman," a comic book mockumentary about the rise of genetic

"'Transhuman' is kind of a comedy," Hickman said. "It's a lot of
tongue-in-cheek. It's really sarcastic. Not a lot of 'ha ha!' jokes but
there's a lot of stuff that'll make you chuckle. A guy named JM Renguit is
drawing it. He's colored some things for BOOM! Studios. He's got a kind of
Mike Oeming/Tim Sale thing going." 

Perhaps paradoxically, most professionals in all facets of the comics
industry read fewer and fewer comic books after finding themselves in the
business of making and selling them. Just one graphic novel deep, Jonathan
Hickman is no exception -- but still better than many at keeping up with
some of the medium's best books. 

"I've become really oversensitive to ripping people off," Hickman remarked.
"Not intentionally -- you don't mean to do that. But whatever you read, it
kind of filters into what you're doing. I stopped reading a lot of stuff but
two of my better buys were 'Batman: Year 100' by Paul Pope and 'Pulphope.' I
liked it - a lot. I've been reading 'Fables.' I love 'Fables,' that's very,
very good. I also read 'Y: The Last Man.' I've been reading '100 Bullets'
lately. That's pretty amazing. I'm a pretty big fan. I didn't even know who
Eduardo Risso was but I've become a huge fan overnight." 

Hickman has plans to continue the mythology of "Pax Romana" after the
conclusion of this maiden miniseries. "The whole thing is kind of structured
like 'Hellboy' in that it's something that I can revisit once a year or
something like that, do a miniseries, and it keeps building on the world,"
Hickman explained. "I've got a whole lot of that stuff already plotted out
and this is just the first little bit. It takes place over 150 years over
the first four issues. And it's really about society building. It's what the
story's all about." 

Posted by James Clement

More information about the extropy-chat mailing list