“On the fringes of civilization, the world’s first detective is about to make an unholy discovery.”
Take my money Valiant, seriously, because this is the series I never knew I wanted. Written by Peter Milligan, and with art by Juan Jose Ryp and Raul Allen, this beautiful, haunting issue details the recent history of the world’s first detectionaire, Antonius Axia. Set in the year 65 A.D., Axia is dispatched to the remote outpost of Brittania to investigate unnatural happenings. Between the palace intrigue, the character development, and the paranormal activity, this issue is like X-Files meets Game of Thrones. IN ALL THE BEST WAYS!
I’m going to let you in on a secret, I saw the preview art and cover for Britannia #1 at the Valiant panel at Baltimore Comic-Con, and I immediately called my local comic shop and had this put in my pull box. The cover justifies the price alone, and the interior art is mesmerizing, as the art team just pulls you into the issue and keeps you invested. The use of colors complements the writing and sets the tone for some of the otherworldly activity, especially as Milligan describes the putrid smells associated with some of the action scenes. Ryp and Allen capture the time period well, including the violence. The blood and wounds look and feel debilitating. This is not a book for kids, with some sexual themes throughout, but the hook of potential paranormal activity, coupled with the everyman protagonist, albeit a detective, thrust into a war he thought he left behind is riveting.
The plot is worthy of the beautiful art, and will keep you coming back for multiple reads. I found myself reading the entire issue, including the backstory on the Vestal Virgins, and when I finished, I loved the book so much I read it again. The story starts in the past to show how Axia got to where he is, providing enough detail to flesh him out, but leaving more than enough gaps to keep you interested in how he got to the present. For me, the most compelling part of the issue was the flashbacks, as Axia finds himself allied with the Vestal Virgins, a secretive group of women who hold considerable clout in ancient Rome. Their mysteries, and plans, propel the plot and Axia into Brittania, while slowly teasing their relationship with the Emperor Nero. I hope the creative team continues with flashbacks to demonstrate Axia’s detective, or detectionaire, skills in action. The promise of action, with the last page reveal, will hopefully lead to some full-body karate, Axia’s forte.
The Game of Thrones aspect revolves around the palace intrigue, and the role the Vestal Virgins play in the Roman Empire. The machinations of Great Vestal Rubria, in particular, are refreshingly complex as Milligan is content to unfold his cards slowly and let her plans develop over time. There was a perfect symmetry of backstory and action, providing the necessary details while keeping the plot moving, essential in a first issue. Valiant smartly made this issue 40 pages, so you have lots of material to occupy your time with.
Whenever Valiant prints an issue in their prestige format, that is a surefire sign that you don’t want to trade wait, get the issues. Now that the creative team has set the stage and whet our appetites, I expect things to get progressively crazier.
Buy this book. Seriously, buy this book. I have never read another book like Britannia #1, which is worthy on its own merits, but the writing and art are truly superb, and they are only going to get better. I could not put this issue down, and am anxiously awaiting the next issue. If you are looking for something unique, or are merely looking for some potential Roman legionnaire versus otherworldly alien action, this will hit your sweet spot. Let me know what you think below!
- Paranormal mystery
- Axia's backstory
- Great Vestal Rubria’s machinations
- Not much attention to secondary characters
- Waiting a month to get more answers!