Arriving in Rome, Arak and Valda have very different opinions about the place, the latter of glories past and glories to come while Arak sees only despair and the harshness of time. Entering the former capital of the world, they encounter violence almost immediately aimed at a man of Jewish descent and it is something Arak cannot abide as they greatly outnumber the poor man. Eventually, they are fought off with the old man’s thanks and the companions continue on to their meeting with the Pope which begins strangely enough and Arak wonders why they ever came here in the first place. Written by Roy Thomas with help from Gerry Conway and Mike W. Barr, they present the Pope to the reader as almost foppish in nature and the headstrong young man that Arak is, believes it all just a waste of time, especially when Valda volunteers them to aid in protecting the city, not that Arak is wont to refuse a request for help. That appeal was rightly made as various people in the city have gone missing and as the Pope goes out among his people the next day, the ground opens up around them and a monstrous hand rises up from the earth and pulls the Pope along with Valda deep underground. The people of Rome blame Arak for this latest disaster and while he protects himself, it is only thanks to that old man he saved previously that he finds a way to escape the mob. It is here that the authors of this tale go into the background of the old man named Jocephus, back to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ where readers learn the old man is immortal and of a people trapped deep underneath the city of Rome as it cuts forward in time a few hundred years. Arak finally begins to see how this story relates to his current predicament and with the help of Jocephus, he makes his way beneath the city through hidden passageways, past various dangers until he discovers those missing and encounters the Black Pope. With the introduction of this new villain, it gives the book a little extra horror and gives its hero a new threat to overcome, quite possibly one that will be too much for him. Featuring truly sumptuous artwork by Ernie Colon and Rodin Rodriguez, the book both looks great and reads great leaves one wanting more with every issue.
4 out of 5