ARTHUS TRIVIUM by Raule and Jean Luis Landa
This had great art and a well written story. There are some potential problems, but overall, it's a worthwhile read.
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Magic is real. At least, it is in ARTHUS TRIVIUM vol. 1: THE ANGELS OF NOSTRADAMUS by writer Raule and artist Juan Luis Landa. What first appears to be a tale of adventure stuck between the truths of history and imagination, the comic quickly becomes a tale of mystical horror. This shocking tale had me dying for the next page. The art left me satisfied and the writing tapped into my love for history and mystical. I’m not usually one for horror-themed works, but this comic made me gasp — and want more.

Image Courtesy of Europe Comics.

The Facts of the Fiction in ARTHUS TRIVIUM

ARTHUS TRIVIUM, set in fourteenth-century Europe (mainly France), focuses on the mystic Nostradamus and his three students, respectively named Arthus Trivium, Angulus Dante, and Angelica Obscura. The three seem relatively close. Angulus and Arthus tease Angelica Obscura about necromancy and get into a fight trying to save a witch. From their dialogue, it would seem that this fight has happened before, but they respect each other’s enough to get out of it.

Nostradamus receives a cryptic message that he interprets as an almost certain sign of doom for his family and himself. He reveals his past to his wife as an explanation of the impending danger, and the scene ends with the wife, deeply upset, leaving the room. Once the reader has been shown the veritable skills of the students, a mysterious figure’s plot to kill them unfolds. As Nostradamus’ students fear for their lives, the master receives a visit from a close friend, France’s young king. During this visit, Nostradamus is forced to reveal a fate most terrible. It seems a fitting way to end the story.

Reading the Pseudohistory Book

In terms of dialogue, period comics tend to be difficult. It’s easy to make the words sound too modern or too dated. The writer gets the speech patterns either just right or fails completely. ARTHUS TRIVIUM gets it right. For example, Angulus Dante says “I saved the woman from the stake, now it’s your turn to get us out of this mess.” Short, more modern speech is combined with long-winded, dated speech. It is this combination of the two that leads to a happy middle. The only problem with the character’s speech is that there is little distinction between speaking patterns. The main characters all use similar words. The only characters with really distinctive voices are the children, with more indirect references, usually to their mother, that goes to set them apart. Still, other characters speak eloquently, which is fitting seeing as most of the characters have received an education.

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Likewise, the plot introduces itself eloquently through appropriate flashbacks. There was little disconnect in following the comic chronologically because every time jump was contextually well-explained. The plot is very captivating; we have cryptic messages and stunning attacks. The reader knows enough so that the story does not seem confusing, and we see enough revealed in the end that leaves the reader happy but wanting more all the same.

Arthus and more in ARTHUS TRIVIUM

The main characters in ARTHUS TRIVIUM vol. 1: THE ANGELS OF NOSTRADAMUS are strong, intelligent, and moral. Nostradamus and his students have free will that they are not afraid to use, but they do not abuse it. Nostradamus uses his knowledge to protect people, his family, and the King. Angulus Dante and Arthus Trivium give up their own safety to save a woman. Angelica Obscura investigates and stops the plague doctors from running a scam. While this does tell us quite a bit about the main characters, we don’t know much else. Nostradamus and Angelica’s pasts are hinted at, so, there may be more to come in that aspect.

The Mystic Art of Worldbuilding

One of the most important skills of a writer is worldbuilding. When a writer can establish the foundations of a fictional world and expand on that, amazement follows. Not only does Raule exhibit this skill, but Landa’s art does so as well. ARTHUS TRIVIUM’s world appears similar to fourteenth-century Earth; however, there is a heavy touch of horrific mysticism, too.

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We learn a great deal about this world in the span of this one volume. Additionally, the story tells us that magic exists, but so too does skepticism. Despite their lack of faith, people still believe in the dangers of magic –at least, they believe in its dangers. We learn of corruption through the attempted witch burning and the scam of the plague doctors. We also discover that, despite the rule of the monarchy, the people don’t take much notice of royal officials or royal papers. Overall, Raule does a great job setting up this world’s parameters.

Image Courtesy of Europe Comics.

The magic is best shown in the gaunt faces of the children who meet Angelica Obscura. The faces of these children show something terrible: something beyond the realms of a non-magical reality. This something, a mere suggestion, has the reader rethinking everything they thought they knew about the story. The past comes back to the present. This idea of the past coming back to the present means horrible things are coming after the worst seems to have passed. When the emaciated faces of the children appeared, they served to solidify the uneasy feeling given early on.

Illuminating the Illustration

ARTHUS TRIVIUM displays such a level of illustrative detail that it seems the events of the comic have been put under a microscope. These details present themselves in other characters as stretches in the skin and wide-open eyes and mouths. These details even extend to the wide range of the color palette. The colors alternate between vibrant hues, sepia tones, and muted colors. Each of these changes takes place at the appropriate time. The sepia tones occur in the evening setting, the muted colors happen at night and in the dungeon, and the vibrancy is present within Nostradamus’ visions. All of this proves itself so detailed that Landa’s skill is not questioned.

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The color palette and the level of detail also serve the storytelling. The dark yet muted tones in the dungeon tell us that there should be a sense of danger. The detail in the army of gaunt figures tells that they are old and decrepit. We could only get this detail from the dialogue if the characters flat out stated “this is a scary dungeon,” or something similar. Therefore, the color palette is key to the story.

Femme Fatale

While the illustrations of ARTHUS TRIVIUM are astonishing, there is one problem. The art depicts Angelica Obscura, and every other woman in the comic, as a piece of eye candy. Many scenes have Angelica tied up wearing only a sheer undergarment. Furthermore, her bodily and facial presentations are the same as every other woman in the comic. This problem of a generic and somewhat fetishized female character is everpresent in comics and problematic. This, however, does not spoil the effect of the excellent parts of the artwork. It is merely something in need of correction in future volumes.

Image courtesy of Europe Comics

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Final Thoughts on ARTHUS TRIVIUM

ARTHUS TRIVIUM vol. 1: THE ANGELS OF NOSTRADAMUS has the writing and art to support an excellent comic series. It is fitting to the time period. The worldbuilding creates a fantastical setting for the reader to become immersed in. The illustration does not leave readers wanting, with the beautiful detail doing a fair share of the storytelling. While the fetishization of female characters is problematic, the writing and artistry are wonderful. I’m looking forward to reading the next volume.

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