An ambitious, visually stunning work, The Golden Vine is also a study of history’s possibilities. The book focuses on one of the more enigmatic figures of the world’s past: Alexander the Great, that rebellious Macdeonian prince who conquered the bulk of the known world only to die in his 30s, armies scattered and empire broken. The Golden Vine turns on one departure from recorded history: what if Alexander had not destroyed the conquered capital of the Persian empire, Persepolis, and, by maintaining the respect of those people instead of crushing them, followed a different path to life and a world empire? Told in three interwoven parts, each vividly illuminated by a different artist, the tale follows the journey of Alexander IV, Alexander’s half-Greek, half-Persian heir, as he struggles to ascend to the throne of Emperor and puzzle through the power and legacy of a father he barely knew. Through the memories and advice of Alexander’s closest companion, Hephaestion, now ruler of Persia, and by reading Alexander’s own letters Alexander IV begins to see his father as both a man and ruler. The entire work is impressive both in scope and in the humanity visible through the monumental legend. Jai Sen certainly did his homework, and he was careful to document where he departs from the known story. Alexander, Hephaestion, and Alexander IV are all very real people, struggling with their individual senses of pride, loyalty, and power in the process of changing the world’s landscape culturally as well as geographically. In the end, I was a wee bit skeptical at the ease with which Alexander spreads his rule across the continents, but within such a glorious book all around, it is a small fault. An excellent choice for teenagers and adults curious about ancient worlds, the legend of Alexander the Great, and the true nature of authority.
The Golden Vine
by Jai Sen
Art by Seijuro Mizu, Umeka Asayuki, and Shino Yotsumoto
Shoto Press 2003