Writer/Artist: Robin Hoelzemann
Release Date: 15th November 2014 (Thought Bubble)
Curia Regis (or ‘King’s Court’ to you at home) is tense 18th century adventure drama from the mind of creator Robin Hoelzemann. The first three issues of the series have gradually built layers of story and character onto the basic premise; In 1724, the Duke of Astair kills himself during a violent mob uprising. Twenty years later, the King Regent reigns with an iron fist while conspiracy and rebellion bubble underneath the surface. Characters are introduced and developed slowly – revolutionaries, heirs, noblemen and cowards, all thrown into this rich blend of historical intrigue and tension.
The pace of Curia Regis is likely to be both its primary selling point and its main drawback; readers looking to immerse themselves gradually into a sprawling, intriguing world will find exactly what they’re looking here, as Hoelzemann has gone into painstaking detail in recreating a vivid snapshot of 18th century nobility, complete with nefarious plots, daring revolutions and an extensive cast of vibrant, multi-layered characters. At the same time however, this is a book which is undeniably very slow to develop. Details of the bigger picture are drip-fed to the reader gradually, and while this storytelling approach certainly has its merits, I couldn’t help but find myself frequently urging Curia Regis to just ‘get on with it!’ over the course of the first three issues.
Thankfully however, the fourth issue ramps things up significantly, featuring an almost painfully intense exchange between the menacing King Regent and Moren, the cousin of the child King who is trying desperately to cling her own rebellious secrets. As with previous issues, Hoelzemann’s depiction of the King Regent is absolutely spot-on, with his subtle body language and measured speech making him an utterly captivating presence, and I found myself letting out an almost audible gasp when one of the other characters dared to stand up to him. The second half of the book keeps things moving with some kinetic action and leaves us on a revelation that promises yet more intrigue in the issues to come.
Hoelzemann’s artwork deserves credit for its impressive level of detail. Clearly she has done her research into this particular historical period, as everything is note-perfect, from the architecture and furnishings down to the clothing of the characters. Details like these are what help sell a story, and in that respect, Curia Regis does a terrific job of immersing you in the fictional world which Hoelzemann has created, making it seem almost like a historic recreation in places. It is also worth mentioning that after the somewhat stark black and white approach of issue one, all of the subsequent issues have been in colour – a wise choice, and one which adds a much-needed level of depth to her confident artwork.
Overall, Curia Regis is going to live and die based on how much of a ‘quick fix’ its readers are looking for. We’re now four issues in, and the big picture is still more than a little cloudy. We’ve been introduced to some intriguing characters and faced with some tense, dramatic situations, but it’s difficult to see exactly what Hoelzemann’s end game is, at least for the time being. For my taste, I could do with a little more of an overarching connection between the different perspectives she has employed, and more of a sense of just where the story is going. That said however, there’s no disputing the impressiveness of her world-building and storytelling, and once the pieces have finally been moved into position, I have no doubt that Curia Regis is going to kick into high gear with a payoff that is more than worth the wait.
Curia Regis will be available at Thought Bubble on the 15th and 16th of November, priced just £5. You can catch up with Robin in the New Dock Hall.