book review: pax romana

I loved the concept behind Jonathan Hickman’s Pax Romana, but the execution was kind of lacking.

The idea is that in the future a couple of scientists figure out a way to make time travel work, but their research has been paid for by the Vatican who use it to make history better. They send a team back to Constantine’s time to get the Holy Roman Empire set up correctly, with enough advanced technology and wealth and foreknowledge of the future and science to ensure some form of success.

It’s a great idea for a book, and the characters who are sent back in time are excellent, in theory. The way the book is done though, really distances you from any of the characters. That’s part of the point (the story is being told as a history lesson to a new emperor in a space ship) but it feels like they left out a lot of the bits that would make it an insanely cool story. You see characters doing very little. Each chapter has two page dialogue scenes that have a small picture of the people involved, and that’s where the majority of the interesting stuff happens. Everything else is interesting layouts and use of whitespace, but not a lot of storytelling.

Jonathan Hickman used infographics really well in The Nightly News, but by the time you get to the end of the book and see the cool timelines of how history went between the timescales of the story, I was disappointed that those events weren’t told as dense little one page comics instead of sentences on a line.

The story we got was good enough and the pages were laid out prettily, but everything was so sparse it became a little frustrating to look at everything left untold.

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