Britannia #1 Review/Rumination
Written by Peter Milligan
I picked up Britannia Vol 1 Trade paperback this week based on a twitter recommendation. I will be reviewing this trade in single issues as if they were new releases.
Britannia follows the first Detective, Antonius Axia. The issue begins with Antonius being sent on a mission to save one of Rome's Vestal Virgins that has been kidnapped. The virgins are said to have magical powers and hold sway over Roman society including the emperor, Nero.
Antonio manages to save the Virgin but is driven to the point of madness when he and his men are engulfed in a toxic gas.
The scene transitions to a conversation between Vestal Virgin, Rubria and Nero. Nero has plans to have Antonius crucified for deserting his post to save the virgin but he's talked down by Rubria. Nero questions the interest in Antonious and believes he's being deceived. Rubria confirms that the Virgins do have plans for Antonius and that they are in the process of restoring his mind.
Antonius wakes up in a tub full of blood being bathed by a few of the virgins. He is later taken to see the codex and told to read by one of the virgins. He reads the codex until he can't anymore and likens the experience to the feeling that the codex was consuming him. While resting, the Virgin that he saved, Drusha comes to him and offers her body. Antonius protests but she tells him that he's still damaged and needs to be shocked back to health this encounter is an exception.
The comic transitions 6 years. Antonius has become known as the Detectioner. He has taken a job to find a womans missing husband. This leads him to confront a senator that in the middle of having sex with one of his mistresses. The senator still naked, and enraged by the interruption attacks Antonius. He is easily dispatched and reveals that the the missing party deserved everything that happened to him. With the new information provided, Antonius leaves.
The Detective leaves and goes to visit his family. He is greeted by his nephew, Avitus, who leaps into his arms. It is revealed to the reader that Avitus is actually Antonius's son. The mother died during childbirth. The Vestal virgins found a childless couple to raise the boy because Antonius was in no condition to do so. After leaving the home Antonius goes to the bar to drown his sorrows and almost gets into a fight with another patron. The scene is interrupted when his slave, Bran grabs him and tells him it's time to leave.
Meanwhile in Britannia, Nero's men are attacked by monsters. As this is occuring Antonius is awaken by nightmares. Bran tries to settle him down but Antonius tells him that the time for sleep is over. They go to the codex but are interrupted by Nero's soldiers. The emperor demands an audience.
Antonius arrives just in time to see Nero slit a peasant's throat. Nero asks him to to talk to the man's spirit as it transitions between life and death but Antonius explains that he doesn't talk to spirits. Nero tells him that in that case he will need to go to Britannia in person. Antonius protest's the request but Nero tells him that if he doesn't comply he will have him executed and take personal care of his son.
Antonius leaves distressed and asks Rubria, to influence Nero to find someone else for the task but she reveals he was selected because of his reputation as a detectioner. He notices and greets Drusha. She tries to tell him something but Rubria sends her away threatening her with being buried alive.
Antonius leaves and we get more with Rubria and Nero. He is concerned with Antonius being the one to investigate Britannia because of his rank but the Virgin insists that Antonius has been prepared for what he will encounter and that the situation is more than it seems.
The scene transitions to Antonius, Bran and a group of soldiers in route to Britannia. The comic ends here as they encounter a large monster that appears to devouring the previous group of men that went missing.
I'm writing this a couple months before the new Assassins Creed game set in Rome is released. Britannia is an excellent intro to the setting. The comic is beautiful. Juan Jose Ryp and Jordie Bellaire do an excellent job of rendering the world, women and also the horrifying monsters that show up occasionally throughout this issue. It's also fun to play with a real world historical setting like this. The comic could easily be a great IP for a television series.
The lead character, Antonious is interesting, smart capable and flawed. He has all of the components of the classic hero archetype. The story isn't fully revealed as of yet but it's clear that Peter Milligan has a plan for where this story is going. Nero appears to be the bumbling idiot leader. We've seen this trope before but it still works in this setting because we know the real world Roman emperors were just as depraved or worse.
I want to know more about Rubria and what sort of game she's playing here. It's clear that there is more to the situation than she is letting on and she's obviously more informed on the situation than Nero or the other virgins.
The characters all have great chemistry within the story, particularly the relationship between Bran and Antonius. I'm not sure I've ever seen a master and slave ever depicted with such a warm relationship. I'm curious to know more about how this arrangement came to be or how it works.
The dialogue is hilarious and some of the scenes got a genuine chuckle out of me. A lot of ground was covered in this issue and I can't wait to get into the next one in the next few days. Valiant tends to have the best written ongoing series on the market and based on this single issue the trend continues.