Britannia #2 Rumination/Review
Written by Peter Milligan
Art by Juan Jose Ryp and Jordie Bellaire
Britannia #2 opens with Antonius seeing visions of his long dead wife. She calls for him to come closer as his loyal slave Bran protests. Antonius sees through the ruse and manages to attack the visage and destroy the illusion.
Antonius & Bran find the remains of Fort Paulinus. Bran remarks that Paulinus has been destroyed but Antonius deduces that the Fort has not been razed but moved and that the bodies that are left are of Brits.
They walk away from the carnage they are approached by a group of Roman soldiers. Antonius lets the group know that he has been sent by Nero to investigate the situation in Britannia. The leader of the group, a huge heavily scarred soldier responds that he doesn't give a damn.
The scene transitions to Antonius reporting in with Perfect Gabinius. The previous leader had been killed and he had been forced to assume command. Perfect tells Antonius that he doesn't need the assistance but Antonius retorts that he believes that the Perfect is up against something that he doesn't understand.
While the conversation is taking place they walk past a couple Roman soldiers savagely beating their prisoner. Antonius intervenes but the Perfect tells him to stand down and also ends the attack. He tells Antonius to leave while he still can
Antonius senses that there is more to the soldier's behavior than simply letting off steam. Instead of leaving he plays on Perfect Gabinius's insecurities about being an ineffective leader. This gives the Perfect pause but has the desired effect of getting him to back off and allow Antonius to continue his investigation.
The scene shifts to Antonius and Brand investigating the bodies of two Roman Soldiers. Antonius doesn't get too far into investigating before being interrupted by another group of men. Led by the same large scarred soldier from before, the Romans attack our heroes and eventually draws the attention of Perfect Gabinius. He stops the attack and limits the scope of the investigation to the camp and advises that it has to be completed within a week.
The comic transitions to an encounter between Nero and the Chief Vestal Virgin, Rubria. He accuses her of knowing more than she's letting on about the monster that has appeared in Britannia.
They go back and forth making threats towards each other and she reveals that Antonius was chosen to investigate the monster because of his status as a burned out soldier that no one cares for. She admits that he will probably never return from Britannia. The scene ends with Rubria letting Nero know that if Antonius fails Rome may be destroyed.
Antonius and Bran bribe one of the Romans for access to the Fort but now all of the bodies have been removed. Antonius notices patterns with the dog tracks and ties it to the two soldiers from before. He says that he believes that the soldiers were killed by their own men.
He tries to use his status as a war hero to pry information from some of the soldiers but fails miserably. He is later pulled to the side by one of them and told that he should leave because it is getting dangerous for him for him to be there. At this moment s skirmish breaks out between some soldiers and some of the locals.
Antonius approaches one of the women involved in the scuffle and questions her. Her name is Bodmall, she refuses to cooperate at all until she notices the "Wyrd" magic upon him. Before the conversation can be continued further, Bodmall is called away. The soldier says that the man calling her away is her lover but Antonius makes the observation that the relationship appears to be more like master and slave.
Later that evening in camp Antonious laments being away from his son for so long. As he and Bran chat they hear dogs barking in the distance and leave to investigate.
A young boy flees from a group of monsters on horseback but collapses. Upon hitting the ground one of the monsters pulls up on horseback and impales him with a spear. The monster then takes his mask off and reveals himself to be Perfect Gabinus. The monsters/soldiers leave when they are frightened off by something that is coming.
Antonius ponder's the situation but is interrupted by the huge scarred soldier that has been stalking him. The comic ends on a cliffhanger as the Soldier raises his sword, presumably with murderous intent.
Britannia #2 was a really fun issue. Although its a standard size comic it reads as if its a lot denser. The investigation widens and we see that the Romans assigned to Britannia may be possessed by supernatural forces. The overarching story is great. The art isn't as bright as in the prior issue but I believe it has more to do with the issue being set primarily in Britannia. The area is in bad shape and the shift in color seems appropriate. This is a credit to the editing on the book that it maintains its artistic cohesion so well.
The book isn't perfect this go round and I call shenanigans on a few moments in the book. The first being the scene between Antonius and Perfect Gabinus and the other being the brief scene between Nero and Rubria.
I understand Antonius is being set up to be a master detective but It seems that Peter Milligan goes a bit overboard with Antonius's abilities and his observations of Gabinus. He's able to dissect all of Gabinus's personal insecurities over the course of 2 pages. A simple explanation would be that Antonius has supernatural insight. This may actually be the case. The scene is one of my favorites from the issue but it does comes off as a bit silly.
The scene between Nero and Rubria also bothered me because it was just so over the top. The book is clearly not grounded. The heightened reality is entertaining for the most part but when characters are constantly being quippy and condescending it becomes an annoyance. The scenes between the characters are very brief but if this is how they are going to be portrayed everytime they pop up on the panel it will take away from the series. I understand that Nero is paranoid and insane but those seem to be his only character traits and its becoming a net negative for the series so far.
The reveal that Perfect Gabinus is one of the soldiers involved in the murder is not surprising but the manner in which the reveal takes place is kinda sloppy. Why did he remove his mask at that particular moment? It doesn't ruin the issue but its a questionable and a very convenient plot point.
None of the gripes hurt my overall enjoyment of the issue but I believe that that the plotting and editing may be playing too fast and loose on the detective elements of the series. It doesn't break the suspension but it does nag me a bit and prevent the series from getting a perfect score this time.