Britannia: We Who Are About To Die #1 Review
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Juan Jose Ryp
Colours by Frankie D’Armata
Letters by Dave Sharpe
Reviewed by Lorna Maltman (email@example.com)
I always meant to read the original Britannia, because ancient history and especially British ancient history, has a special place in my heart (I made Celtic shields when I was younger and I think the first game I remember playing properly was Total War Rome, as the Britons of course). So, when I saw this new series I was intrigued and then I saw it was now with added gladiators, so I had to check this out! In this issue, Milligan does a decent job of introducing both the Roman world and the characters of the previous series to new readers whilst not dumbing it down, but I must admit some of the nuances were lost on me.
The story opens with two noble Romans lounging on recliners and one beckons his slave forward; he then proceeds to sexually assault her and let’s just say it doesn’t end well for the Roman. We then jump five years after this event to Antonius Axia, the first Roman detective from the previous series, who has been tasked with finding a lost son of a noble. Milligan proceeds to show different narratives of Rome with the tyrannical Nero, the vestal virgins being accused of angering the Gods and a
gladiator stirring up trouble. These storylines create enough intrigue and character so that the smaller nuances that newer readers or people who don’t know much about ancient history would have missed don’t detract from the enjoyment of the comic. Milligan artfully, like in any detective book, sets up the threads which seem separate and in the later issues will surely intersect- I can’t wait to see how.
Ryp’s art creates a realism to this story and makes the violent sections gloriously graphic, which is what is needed for a Roman based comic, as the Roman empire thrived off violence and blood. Ryp’s depiction of Nero as a hysterical and crazed emperor just through facial expressions is a testament to his brilliant art. There is a four-page essay on Roman gladiators in the back and it gives great historical background, insight and validity to the world of Britannia.
Give it a shot. This is a great historical detective comic but is slightly hampered if you are new to the series. There is still plenty of enjoyment to get from this comic, but if you have a basic knowledge or enjoyment of Roman history ( and/ or read the previous series) this comic will be even better and an essential one to pick up. The art suits this comic perfectly and gives the story the weight and depth that it deserves.