.The Secret History – Archaia

I want to open this issue’s comics column with a full on endorsement for a book I was blown away by. The Secret Historyfrom Archaia is written by Jean-Pierre Pecau and illustrated by Igor Kordey, Leo Pilipovic, Goran Sudzuka and Geto.

I picked up the first volume at C2E2 earlier in the year. When I got issues 8 & 9, I made a pot of coffee and sat down to read. The prep was because it’s a big book. 336 pages of story and art in the first collection and I had a feeling this would be a commitment. I wasn’t wrong.

At the beginnings of time are four brothers and sisters, part of a tribe that has been wiped out They are entrusted by the village elder, a shaman, with one ivory icon each. The icons are powerful, each with a different name- The Chalice, The Lance, The Sword and The Shield. The four sibling immortals, or Archons, are warned never to use them together. Of course, being so devastated by the attack on their village, that’s the first thing they do. A meteor crashes into Earth and they see why the Icons should never be used in unison.

The story jumps from here in increments through time following the Archons as they play behind the scenes influencing events that will shape civilization as we know it. Sometimes the influences are meant to help mankind. Other times, it for personal gain. They are there when Moses faces off with the pharaoh, when the quest for the Grail drives men mad, when Napoleon tries to rule the world. Sometimes they are right in the thick of things, sometimes hiding in the shadows. Not at any given time do the four work together as they each have a different and ever changing agendas. The first volume ends with World War I, and the issues after that lead into WWII.

What really made this book special was the use of actual history and real historical figures through out the story. It gives the whole series a layered and complex quality that makes you want to read slowly and take it all in. The use of real people isn’t played as a prop, but  as a part of the story and as a result it is even more effective. While this is alternate history what it really feels like is history with a look behind the curtains.

The art is also amazing. The combination of artists working on this are putting it all on the page and I  really noticed the extra punch the colors added.

This is now one of only two graphic novels I will be rereading every year. The other is WATCHMEN. THE SECRET HISTORY really shows just how much comics are capable of and the job Archaia does with this book is top of the line. I can’t recommend this book enough. While reading I forgot to eat, I didn’t notice my wife had gone to bed without me and I saw the sun come up. This sounds like a cliché, but if you only buy one graphic novel this year, it should be The Secret History.