Over that last few days in the evenings I’ve caught up on a couple of comic narratives that play with thems of religion, power, and empire. I finally got around to reading Jonathan Hickman’s Pax Romana which involves the Roman Catholic Church, time-travel, and attempting to rewrite history for a “better future”, as well as getting my hands on the third volume of Matt Hawkin’s The Tithe: Samaritan – Veritas (see Religion and Comics – A Top 10 (Part 3)). Both stories reflect on the shaping of empires and the use and abuse of power by secular and religious protagonists.
I’ve previously read Hickman’s Transhuman (see Transhuman – The comic mini-series) back in the late 2000s and been impressed with the storytelling. Pax Romana is also intriguing and reminds me a little of a number of science fiction short stories, novels and TV shows. For example, the original Star Trek episodes “Bread and Circuses“, “The City on the Edge of Forever“, “Assignment: Earth” and “Patterns of Force” play come immediately to mind, as do books series like Jerry Pournelle’s Janissaries and David Weber’s Safehold.
What differs in Pax Romana is the attempt by the Roman Catholic Church, who have heavilly invested in scientific and technological research and who are under threat of extinction from Islamic and secular cultural forces, to return to the time of Constantine in the early 4th century and through him to influence the establishment of a stronger, completely dominant Holy Roman Empire through the use of foreknowledge of events (e.g. preventing the development of Islam), military and technological superiority, and socio-political engineering. Of course, nothing goes to plan – what with human beings being involved – and a new somewhat unexpected history develops.
You can find some reviews of Pax Romana here:
The Tithe: Samaritan – Veritas builds on the storylines in the first two volumes of The Tithe, again engaging with religion being used to control and shape politics and visions of empire, as well as drawing in the parallel stories from Postal, Think Tank, and Eden’s Fall (see HOW EDEN’S FALL TIES TO SAMARITAN: VERITAS). The protagonist in this story arc is Samantha Copeland (AKA, the hacker Samaritan) who emerges from self-isolation isolation to seek justice from those in political and corporate power responsible for the events in the second part of The Tithe and in Eden’s Fall. Again, Hawkins doesn’t condemn religion and religious faith, but instead critiques the religious hypocracy of those in power, as well as how they manipulate religion to influence popular opinion and maintain their grip on power.
Some reviews of The Tithe: Samaritan can be found below:
Both stories are good, interesting reads and raise good questions about the use and abuse of religious power, the relationships between religion and state, and what forms of resistance to those look like.