Curia Regis is a lush, romantic 18th Century adventure drama, set in the ‘King’s Court’ of the title, somewhere unspecified yet resolutely old fashioned European, a delicious slice of historical fiction with all the requisite intrigue and plotting, complete with a dastardly King Regent usurping the throne, ruling instead of the rightful King, a child no one has seen for a long time. It’s lovely to look at and full of atmosphere, and although not without its problems, more than worth your attention.
When last I looked at Curia Regis I alluded to events going on in this very print volume, my eagerness to continue the tale of issues 1-3 leading me to continue reading online, experiencing all of the dark thrills of the King Regent’s tyrannical reign, the absolute highlight of the comic thus far. Here in the print version, there’s two very distinct parts, beginning with that aforementioned scene in the King Regent’s court and continuing with a not so successful adventure with Gideon and Jacques, the former just home after two years, wondering what happened to his best friend in the interim, the latter an uncertain figurehead and leader of a potential revolution.
Events here all help to build our vision of the world of Curia Regis, including that growing underground rebellion that includes both Jacques and the child King’s cousin; Moren, Madame La Marquise, very much the heroic focus of Curia Regis, struggling to cope with all that is required of her in addition to struggling with a father in the grip of dementia.
This very dangerous game takes a further hazardous step here, Hoelzemann excelling in creating nail-biting tension as Moren throws a lavish ball for the corrupt King Regent, all brooding dark good looks, a dangerous man, exuding power and threat, unafraid to make his displeasure known, in thought and word and later in deed, but it’s the verbal sparring that really sparkles, as Moren and the King Regent circle each other, fear, trepidation, threat all simmering away…
Right now, it’s the King Regent who appears to hold all the power, willing to spar with Moren, but as soon as one of the guests, worse for drink, emboldened and too loud, steps out of line, action is brutally decisive, punishment swift, this is a man used to wielding his considerable power with alacrity.
It’s Hoelzemann’s strong characterisation and incredibly tight control of the tension in this section that’s a real highlight, her storytelling so strong. There’s also just a little fun to be had with her characters at the same time, the King Regent may well be a monster, but there’s always potential in any villain for a comedic turn, the tone sharp, the idea funny…
That’s from earlier, as the King Regent suffers his financial advisors, as we learn of the ever more complicated connections, with Moren’s family controlling one of the largest estates in the kingdom. More and more connections, more intrigue for the future.
As for the second half of issue 4, it sadly doesn’t have the same draw. The scene switches to before the ball, Gideon and Jacques on their way, Gideon a recent returnee, still unsure of his old best friend, the potential revolutionary figurehead now so unstable, impetuous, angry. We don’t know why, we’ll find out more in time no doubt, yet here it’s all a vague thing, sadly lacking the storytelling tension of the scenes at the ball. There’s also a problem with Hoelzemann’s art for the first time, as the action scenes come across just that little static, stilted, lacking the fine flow of movement you felt in the ball scenes, where there’s a perceived fluidity of characters moving through the page in relation to each other. Again, nothing ridiculously bad, just suffering in comparison to what passed before.
We’re still slowly gathering things here, that sense of gradually building the story and its characters, showing off all of Hoelzemann’s promise and skill delivering a really good series, not perfect by any means, but certainly one to seek out.
You can get hold of the print issues from the website, and read the digital version online, starting here.