Britannia #2 Review
Written by: Peter Milligan
Art by: Juan Jose Ryp
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Asst. Editor: Lauren Hitzhusen
Backup Essay: Graeme Ward
Review by Robert Coffil
In a time when Legend, Myth and Superstitions rule the mind of common men, a man who uses Logic, Reasoning and Deductions is highly valued by those who would use him wisely in Rome. Issue two of Britannia has our hero, Centurion Antonius Axia, trying to solve the mystery of what exactly is going on in the farthest reaches of the empire: Britannia.
The issue begins where the first issue left off with our cynical hero Antonius and his slave Bran caught in some foul apparition that is exactly where their destination is: Britannia. They are able to overcome this obstacle and dropped in to the colony of Britannia as Romans. Only, the other soldiers aren’t exactly the biggest fans of our heroic duo. This is because they do not observe the traditions, and rituals of typical devout Romans. They investigate dead bodies, which Romans consider the ultimate travesty. They talk to the locals, whom the Roman soldiers look down upon. Basically, Antonius does everything he can, in search of the understanding the mystery, to piss off the soldiers and it comes back to bite them in the most unceremonious way.
The plot and narrative is strong from Milligan. The characters that are newly introduced in this issue feel fully actualized. We get flashes back to Rome and Emperor Nero seems suitably unhinged.
The art by Ryp in this issue leans heavily on character acting and facial expressions. This issue doesn’t have any establishing shots. In the hands of a lesser artist the art would fail. Even without big establishing shots to set up the new setting of the Briton towns the art works. I think it works so well because Ryp does the facial expressions and character acting so well. The Roman soldiers who are under the influence of something odd, are drawn suitably manic. Sometimes the Roman Soldiers even are foaming at the mouth. When Antonius is doing one of his Sherlock like deductions on a Roman Prefect, you can see the pupil of the eyes shrink and sweat break out on the prefect’s face. It is a really neat effect.
One criticism I do have of the art in this book is the lack of storytelling. Because most of the panel shots are zoomed in camera angles it doesn’t allow for the greatest storytelling. However, the plot is driven with such impetus that the lack of storytelling by the art doesn’t hurt issue too much.
A portion of this book that doesn’t fail is the colors by Jordie Bellaire. A colorist’s work is sometimes so subtle that you don’t recognize ti unless it is atrocious or if it blows you away. Jordie’s color in this issue blew me away. If you look at the colors of the book when it switches from Briton to Rome, you really notice it. Briton is colored dark, dank and dour. Rome is colored bright and colorful. This works tonally because it highlights that Rome is the center from which all enlighten flows, and Briton is so far away that even the light of Rome can’t reach it.
There is some back up material in the book and it is wonderful. This issues back matter discusses the role of the Roman Centurion. I love reading about ancient Rome and the juxtaposition between what things represent and what things actually are. This month Graeme Ward writes about what Centurions represent in Roman society/culture and then what their actual role in society was. It is a good read.
Buy! I am a sucker for historical fiction so I just have to read the next issue. If you are a fan of procedurals, this book actually scratches that itch as well. Peter Milligan and the team Valiant have assembled have a great book on their hands.