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The Golden Vine

A 300-page graphic novel, Shoto Press, 2003.

Category: fantasy, historical.

Author(s): Jai Sen, Seijuro Mizu, Umeka Asayuki, Shino Yutsomoto.
Alexander IV, by Umeka Asayuki
Alexander and Hephaestion meet for the first time. Art by Seijuro Mizu

The world of The Golden Vine looks like a perfect world: united by Alexander the Great, in peace with itself, all religions working together. But when a 59-year old Alexander dies, it is up to his son Alexander IV to find out the secret which enabled his father to dominate the whole of the earth.
But of course, in our world, Alexander the Great died at age 33, a few months after his long-time friend and lover Hephaestion. His empire crumbled quickly, his dreams of world conquest were soon forgotten and his son was murdered when he was 13.

Young Alexander and HephaestionOf interest to this site is the place given to Hephaestion, whose life is shown in the first part of the book. His reciprocated love for Alexander runs thoughout the story, and Alexander IV's relationship with his captain of the guard is also present, although the book is already so dense that there probably wasn't enough room to do more than give their couple a few dialogues. A proof of the intelligence of Jai Sen's work is the ways he found to show the resistance encountered by Alexander and Hephaestion when they grew older and stayed together, whereas the usual way for the men of their time and culture was to leave behind them the attachments of their youth.

In The Golden Vine, the life of his father unfolds under the eyes of Alexander IV. With each of the three sections drawn by a different artist, the world king's early years, decade-long wars and the state of his empire after his death are given life by the lushness of the art (a golden ink is used throughout the book and the printing quality is among the highest I've ever seen) and the care taken by the writer over the well-defined characters which filled Alexander's existence.
A very moving and wonder-filled part of the book shows the discovery of other civilisations and their conquests, more and more peaceful as the story progresses. Of course, this is a major difference with real history. Another one, in keeping with this one, is the fact that Alexander is obviously a far less violence-prone man than in reality. But it seems to me that Jai Sen managed to keep his portrait of Alexander very coherent, which after all is the most important thing in writing a highly fictionalised version of a historical character.

The alternate history in The Golden Vine is an intricate and well-researched re-imagining of a world of warriors and philosophers, a world where prophecies held power over the minds of men. A world where peoples of various cultures managed to live together in peace.

Is the Earth really round? Art by Shino Yotsumoto
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