Black, demons and battles in the Holy Land of the Crusades

Black, demons and battles in the Holy Land of the Crusades


How to tell the story, the one with a capital S, inside a comic? The ninth art is full of examples of excellent synthesis between fiction and reality, such as Maus, I Tre Adolf or March, but it cannot be denied that the search for a crasis between historical fidelity and the adventurous approach of a plot that sees in the History The right setting represents an even more difficult challenge. A search for the perfect formula that apparently did not frighten Emiliano and Matteo Mammucari in giving life to Nero, a Bonelli project which, inserted within the Audace series (Il Confine, K-11, Dragonero Senzanima, 10 October), offers the opportunity to experience a unique adventure at the time of the Crusades.

The mix of history and adventure is nothing new for the Milanese publisher. Whether it is sagas set in specific historical periods where respect for historical truthfulness is part of the setting, like Ken Parker or the recent recovery of The History of the West, or if you are looking for a more mysterious reconstruction of puzzles from the past, usually accompanied from Good Old Uncle Marty, among Bonelli's volumes this relationship with a documented past has always been seen as an intriguing starting point for exciting stories. In recent times, within the Audace label, there have been other experiences in this sense, from Matteo Casali's K-11 to what if ...? dedicated to Jerry Drake, who took shape with Mr. No Revolution. Two similar narrative approaches which are also joined by the inspiration of the Mammucari brothers, who have chosen to venture into an even more complex period than the other works: the Crusades.

Nero: mythology and history in the series by Sergio Bonelli Editore

Nero: how history influences history The heart of Nero The volumes of Nero

Nero: how history influences history

In a contemporary context in which cultural confrontation is still far from being a sought-after value, choosing to place one's own history within a historical period strongly radicalized on two different positions is a merit that must be acknowledged to two authors. The Crusades are a page of history still strongly divisive today, seen as the root of an inability to communicate that has offshoots in our contemporaneity, but above all as a moment that has become almost a legend, thanks to the construction of a mythology that, in various media, has assumed almost mystical tones. There has been no shortage of novels that have seen in this bloody period a perfect setting to create stories with an esoteric charm by exploiting historical figures who have risen to the role of myths, such as the Templars, or films they have sought, net of the need to offer an entertainment vision , to reveal a different story, free from preconceptions or radical points of view.

For the Mammucari brothers, all these nuances were part of their risk, they had to contribute to the birth of a comic that saw in historical truthfulness a living and coherent frame, but which was not at the same time a cage within which to limit their characters. More than a narrative choice, we could consider it a pact with the reader, which is presented sincerely in the preface of the first volume of Nero, So on Earth:

"If History with a capital S is told through the great masses and the pitched battles, the clashes between civilizations and opposing factions, the stoia that we offer you instead passes through the eyes of a single man, and not even one of the most virtuous and reliable "

Nero is an undisciplined Muslim soldier, known for his ardor on the battlefield and for his anything but rigorous attitude to respect for authority. Marked by a strange scar on his forehead, Nero moves on the battlefields with the enthusiasm of one who always tries to prove something, while with swords aside he is looking for answers to an event from his past linked to the mysticism of his people and to a a bloodthirsty ritual that he miraculously escaped as a child. A mystery that is brought to light when, during a battle, he is captured by a mysterious Christian soldier, intent on finding out what this event really meant.

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The obvious relationship between Nero and the Christian soldier is the point of contact between two profoundly different cultures, adversaries in one of the bloodiest conflicts in history. The obvious hostility between the two is evidenced by an acid verbal aversion, especially in the opening bars of the story, but on closer reading it denotes how, in reality, these two men are more alike than they appear.

The heart of Nero

"Nero does not speak of religion, he does not speak of wars and he does not speak of overlapping cultures. Nero speaks of demons ”

Middle Eastern mythology and folklore are central to this, considered as the ritual often cited in Nero recalls the concept of the djinn, the demons that populate the Muslim tradition. However, it should not be overlooked that the concept of demon can also be extended to individual characters, appealing to those inner demons that plague the protagonists' daily lives, making them tormented souls. Not only Nero and the Christian soldier, but also the magnetic Nizarita, an Arab warrior linked to Nero and part of a dynamic narrative that promises to be a cornerstone of the saga.

The main merit of Nero is to have given greater prominence to a different perspective from that usually associated with stories set in this period: the Arab one. The Mammucari brothers, with an exhausting work of research and comparison with a culture seen with suspicion rather than interest, have created a mythology within Nero that is based on the enhancement of aspects ranging from confrontation with the Christian enemy to everyday life to interior of a war period. Free of rhetoric or educational intentions, the dialogues of this saga convey this richness of nuances, allow themselves the right time to let character traits emerge and provide readers with the correct references to feel part of this story.

Also thanks to a graphic sector of excellence. Characterizing a historical period requires a profound study of architectural and everyday elements of the time, a meticulous search for references that make it possible to create weapons and costumes that are consistent with the setting. Emiliano Mammucari, in the first register, marks the time for the future designers of the saga, with a care that, while granting itself the obvious licenses, does not fail to enhance the context of the story, both in portraying tables of bloody beauty for the battles and in giving space to an environmental portrait that leads the reader to really feel in the sunny desert trodden by the soldiers of the crusades. A heavy legacy that, already in the second volume Darkened the sun, and turned off the stars, is honored by Alessio Avallone, who while inserting his own personality in the tables, preserves the stylistic and visual approach of the previous chapter. Including the freedom of the cage, a true revolution in the publications of the Audace line, which is bent to the needs of the narrative allowing vertical or horizontal developments according to the dynamism of the moments portrayed.

For Nero, the coloring component is another trait essential, and it could not be otherwise considered that Emiliano Mammucari is the pioneer of Bonelli's color scheme, the bearer of a new conception of coloring that has seen absolutely promising test benches in Orfani and in some recent productions of the publishing house. Entrusted to Luca Saponti and Adele Matera, the color scheme of Nero is impeccable, it reconciles the warm desert colors with the colder ones of the nocturnal scenarios, they find a lively brightness in portraying colors linked to non-natural phenomena but central to the economy of the series.

The volumes of Nero

As per the tradition of Audace publications, Nero is also presented in a format that differs from the Bonelli tradition and approaches the French concept. Albums with smaller foliation, but of more generous dimensions, excellent for appreciating every detail of the tables, published on paper that enhances the work of the colorists. This requires both the choice of an excellent artistic team and the adaptation of the writers to a narrative that places break points according to the needs of the volume, with narrative arcs that must be developed not in the traditional 96 pages but in a book of 60 pages.

To complete the volumes there are, in these cases, a series of extras that enhance the pleasure of reading. In the case of Nero, we are led by Matteo Mammucari, author of the editorials, inside the world of Nero through a series of contents with the prophetic name of Revelations.

So on Earth

Two men bear the mark of their obsessions on their skin. One Arab, one Christian. Both human beings. Emiliano Mammucari, again paired with his brother Matteo after the experience of the miniseries "Orphans: Earth", gives life to an adventurous saga in several volumes. The stories of our characters move against the historical background of the Crusades, mixing elements of the Middle Eastern fabulous imaginary - geniuses, spirits, ancestral magic - with the dark and adventurous world of the Christian Middle Ages, with pitched battles, epic challenges, leaders, monks, traffickers. and young paladins in search of fortune.

A first chapter that develops with the right blend of dynamism and dialogue, perfect for introducing the reader to Nero's world. The meeting between the two main actors of this story is carefully constructed, giving each the right space and putting the mystery linked to Nero's past at the center of their relationship, leaving enough details of the mysterious Christian soldier to emerge, to the point of arousing the reader's curiosity. Emiliano Mammucari offers a perfect portrait of Nero's world, both by portraying spectacular scenarios that pay homage to the atmosphere of the Middle East and by creating excited battle scenes in which his talent lends itself best to the needs of the story.

Buy Nero - So on Earth on Amazon The sun darkened, and the stars extinguished

Second chapter of the saga of Nero, by Emiliano and Matteo Mammucari, this time with drawings by Alessio Avallone, the story of two warriors, one Arab and one Christian, who fight side by side, against the backdrop of the Crusades, to face a mysterious and terrible threat that hangs over the whole of humanity. The fortress of Tell Bashir risks capitulating under the blows of the Frankish besiegers. Meanwhile Nero, having discovered the Qadi's plan to awaken an ancient demon, decides to hinder it in every possible way, even fighting against his allies. Nobody can imagine that soon the world will never be the same ...

Second chapter in which the drawings are entrusted to Alessio Avallone, who inherits the role from Emiliano Mammucari with personality. His attention to the architectural elements rewards the story contained within the Arab fortress, helping to convey further anxiety about the imminent Christian attack. Its graphic vitality is essential in giving liveliness to the most intense moments of the siege, giving even more vigor to the plot of the Mammucari brothers, which in the final of the volume culminates in a climax that promises to make the future of the saga even more compelling.

Buy Nero - The sun darkened, and the stars turned off on Amazon Holes in the water

Third chapter of the saga of Nero, by Emiliano and Matteo Mammucari, this time with the drawings by Matteo Cremona, the story of two warriors, one Arab and one Christian, who fight side by side, against the backdrop of the Crusades, to face a mysterious and terrible threat that hangs over the whole of humanity. In a Paradise that has become Hell, Nero and his traveling companions arrive as far as the city of Tire, where a new horror awaits them, but also an unexpected ally.

The ritual seen in the finale of the previous volume causes profound upheavals, while new threats of a magical nature fall on the protagonists on the run. Matteo Cremona graphically interprets this element with amazing vivacity, giving life to tables that best convey the impetuousness of a force of nature such as water and skilfully moving on to portray the most horrifying consequences of the ritual of the previous volume, supported by the perfect coloring of Luca Saponti and Simona Fabrizio. A highly visual moment within the story, which on the narrative level merely emphasizes the mission of the protagonists, introducing a new character who could prove to be a precious ally.

Buy Nero - Buchi nell'acqua on Amazon

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