The Pullbox Reviews: East of Byzantium – Before they played a Game of Thrones…

4th Century, AD

At the edge of Rome…

At the gates of Persia…

Where Emperors and barbarians meet their deaths, a nation carves out its own heart to remain whole.

Khosrov, the Armenian King abandoned by Rome and betrayed by this closest ally…

Tiridates, Khosrov’s son and heir to the Armenian throne, he lives in hiding until he can reclaim his country…

Cosro, the sister of Tiridates who was raised in secret and consecrated as a priestess to serve the old gods…

Artzan, high priest to the royal court, determined to restore Armenia’s royal line to power for the glory of the old gods…

Gregory, a man without a past who has become the closest friend and advisor to Tiridates…

Sound like characters from the latest cable network series hoping to ride the coattails of Game of Thrones? Not quite. How about actual figures at the center of one of the most tumultuous times in Armenian history? The facts, often overlooked, can be every bit as twisted and plot-heavy as anything written for entertainment today, and it’s up to people like Roger Kupelian to bring them to light. Fortunately for me, one of the steps Kupelian took to make sure this project was seen by as many people as possible was to put volumes one and two of East of Byzantium into my hands. So now I guess it’s time to do my part…

Historical events and figures aside, this is a story that’s going to appeal to fans of the courtly intrigue and manipulation that made the books by George R. R. Martin and the subsequent HBO series popular. All of the elements are there. The royal siblings, separated and forced into hiding until they were old enough to take their country back. The religious patriot who saw the Persian occupation not only as a betrayal to his nation, but also an affront to his gods. The Christian, loyal to a deposed Prince despite accusations of betrayal and falsehood and the trials that followed. It’s all presented in the pages of these graphic novels, with an eye to detail and a love for the history and culture they represent… as much as I love the medium, “comicbooks” just doesn’t fit these works of art. And “art” is pretty much the only term that can be used to describe Kupelian’s beautifully rendered pictures. In a style that (looks like it) uses photographic reference to support fully painted illustrations, he’s brought his books to life. The combination of photorealism and stylization is just damned pretty to look at.

As in all things worth doing, this was a project that was brought together by a number of people. Some of them you can see named at the beginning of this article, but that’s just a small dent in a very large machine. For more details on the East of Byzantium graphic novels- and beyond- take a hop on over to the main website. This was a pretty ambitious scheme, given life by a driven group determined to shed a little light on a part of history that shouldn’t be overlooked for taking place in one isolated corner of the world.

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