Written by Arvid Nelson, "Rex Mundi" is an epic story set in an alternate history in which the Catholic church dominates Europe with Kabbalistic magic and its police force of Inquisitors. The Dark Horse series rockets toward its conclusion this week with the release of issue #15. Illustrated by Juan Ferreyra "Rex Mundi" was planned as a 38-issue miniseries (the first twenty issues of which were published by Image Comics) and will end with Dark Horse's issue #19. With the first 35 installments now complete, time is running out for Dr. Julien Sauniere to find the Holy Grail and save Europe from the Duke of Lorraine's machinations.
CBR News spoke with Nelson about "Rex Mundi," its less-obvious religious influences, and the progress of Johnny Depp's planned film adaptation.
Two issues into Book 6, the final arc of the series, "Rex Mundi" is now entering the endgame. In issue #15, Lord Lorraine, Genevieve, and Julien Sauniere all experience certain reversals of fortune, while Teniers works toward his own ends and Isabelle finds new resolve.
Nelson said that the end of "Rex Mundi" represents the payoff to story threads that have been established throughout the series' run. "The first side of the story, we were writing a lot of checks," the writer told CBR News. "Now we're cashing them."
Nelson also promised "lots of twists and turns" before the final issue. "One of the characters is safe, that's what I promised myself from the beginning," he said. "Some major characters will die, and some will die before story ends."
Though Nelson has indicated that Book 6 will focus less on this world's history (which has by now been well established), the underlying quest for and mysteries surrounding the Holy Grail will play a key role in the resolution of "Rex Mundi." The religious aspect, too, remains close to the heart of the series, though some of its influences are less apparent than others. In particular, the writer's own Baha'i faith gives a particular shape to the story.
"I converted to Baha'i in college, so religion is interesting to me. I think it's an important part of the human experience, and will always be a important part of my writing," Nelson explained. "I think there's a lot of emphasis today on how different the major religions are from each other, Christianity from Islam, from Buddhism, and so on. The way it's conceived is that there' s an unbridgeable gulf--but Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, they all share the same prophetic origins. This clash of cultures is not how it's meant to be, it's not how they were originally framed. It's certainly not the Baha'i perspective.
"'Rex Mundi' shows the similarities between the religions, the idea of religions being not so much confrontational as coming together. It emphasizes those things, that make them are a lot more similar, are a lot more important than the things that make them different.
"There's also an even deeper level, allegorically, in Baha'i faith, which in a mystical sense goes back to Abraham," Nelson continued. "God said to Abraham, 'I will make prophets out of your descendants. That's plural. His sons were Ishmael and Isaac, and from Isaac eventually down the years we get Jesus and the Jewish prophets. From Ishmael, eventually we get Mohammed. Baha'i represents the reconciliation of these prophetic traditions into one unified religion. So in 'Rex Mundi,' Julien represents Mohammed's line, Lorraine represents Christ, and Genevieve is the unity."
Nelson was quick to point out that the metaphor only goes so far. "It's not a direct correlation--Jesus wasn't evil."
"Rex Mundi" #15 sports a guest cover by "Umbrella Academy" writer and My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way, and Nelson spoke admiringly of his fellow Dark Horse creator. "I love the cover," he said. "Gerard is a very nice guy, too. He puts a lot of work into 'Umbrella Academy.' 'He could just not take his time with it, it would still sell well. But it's actually a really good comic, which kind of shows the kind of guy he is."
When last we spoke with Arvid Nelson, the writer discussed the film adaptation of "Rex Mundi," produced by and starring Johnny Depp. Nelson indicated that the film is "coming along" but that "the wheels of Hollywood grind slowly." "We are at a second revision of the screenplay, so that's good. The way this works is there are periods of feverish activity, followed by lulls," he said. "We're in one of the lulls now."
Nelson said he would also like to develop his other current Dark Horse project, the "Kull" miniseries -- based on the R.E. Howard character -- into something similarly grand. He noted that whether or not this comes to fruition will depend on Dark Horse and the licensors, but that there is a plan for whole saga for Kull's life. "Conan wanders around for years and becomes king eventually, but that was never the point of his life. Kull does have a driving force in his life," Nelson explained. "We are seeing this as a long-form miniseries like 'Lost' or like 'Heroes,' where every story is building toward some ultimate goal."
"Rex Mundi" #15 is on sale now from Dark Horse.