A book set in my favourite time period, in the country in which I live in, what’s not to love about a series called Britannia?
Previously In Britannia: It is AD 60 and Nero has been Emperor for 6 years. The Roman Empire stretches from Judea in the South to a strange country called Britannia in the North. The Roman world is a male dominated society where even well born women cannot vote or own property. Apart from one group; the Vestal Virgins.
I’ve always wanted to watch Nero molest his niece…
I bet you weren’t expecting to read that sentence today, and frankly, I wasn’t expecting to see it either. Admittedly you don’t ‘see’ anything, but the implication is more than enough. Like many comics that want to take the risqué route, this book does it without showing overt nudity, however out of the 28 comic pages in this book there are completely naked people on 8 of them, but their arm or the panel border just happens to hide their vital bits.
To me this really feels like a book that isn’t quite sure what it is trying to be. It wants to be Game of Thrones, but it doesn’t want to find itself relegated to the top shelf of comics out of the reach of younger children; so it does its nudity in ‘socially acceptable’ ways; while at the same time being utterly unsuitable by overtly implying incest with Nero and his niece in the bath.
I always find it best to get the worst out of the way first
I have said the one negative about this book that I felt I needed to get my off chest, so now, the good stuff. This is a fantastic comic, and I don’t say that lightly. I read a lot of comics, but I only tend to review the ones I wouldn’t normally read. No one cares that I love Deadpool, or Lazarus and if you review the same books over and over again you genuinely run out of things to say. Sometimes this means I find a hidden gem; a wonderful book that I continue to pick up after that review, but most of the time I end up with books that are either ‘ok’ or absolutely terrible.
This is most certainly not one of the latter, it is one that I will be looking out for every month for as long as the run lasts because it pretty much ticked all the boxes. I really hope that although this is 1 of 4, that it becomes the first of many limited series set in this world with these rich characters.
This book tells the story of a Roman Centurion called Antonius who is enlisted by the Chief Vestal to save one of her kind from a hideous ritual death. However the result is that his mind is lost to the demon Orcus.
Back in Rome his mind is mostly restored, but his career is not. Acting now as an investigator he works for Rome solving crimes by being one part Sherlock Holmes and one part bulldozer along with his faithful ‘slave’ Bran. However his comfortable life comes to an end when Nero insists his goes to Britannia to solve the mystery of why it is such a miserable place to live…
And I always leave the best until last
I have read historical comics which were re-tellings of real events and I have read pure fiction, but for me this is a wonderful example of a historical fiction comic which gets the history so right, but doesn’t let it interfere with the story. It also manages the impossible; a 4 page footnote giving the historical background to the story, but without putting me to sleep reading it. Who knew that virgins were so interesting.
Admittedly picking ancient Rome and one of its most notorious Emperors does give you a lot of latitude. The Imperators of Rome all seemed to fall into one of two categories – brilliant leaders of men or depraved lunatics who got off on torture and molestation. For some reason there weren’t many ‘average’ leaders in that period. This means that writing historical fiction about Rome gives you a lot of excuses to tell glorious stories about heroic leaders and have them fight against some of the most despicable villains the human race have ever really produced.
Honestly, the Joker maybe the iconic insane comic book villain, but what he did was child’s play compared to the real life of the Emperor who slept with his mother, attempted to drown her and failed, then sent some soldiers to finish the job, killed his wife and then spent the rest of his life tormenting the nobles and forcing them to commit suicide; and this comic does its best to get across to you just how depraved Nero was.
This book has all the hallmarks of a fantastic series that could potentially run as long as they want, assuming they don’t kill the hero in issue #4. They have both a monstrous enemy as well as a truly despicable antagonist in the form of Nero and the hero is a bit mysterious as well as being entertaining to watch work. The art is perfect for the series, the colouring drab, but consistent with the period and the pencilling consistent and detailed throughout. Basically, this is everything I could want in a new series; I only hope it can continue to live up to my new high expectations.
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