Friday, 21 July 2017

Britannia, Volume 2: We Who Are About to Die Review (Peter Milligan, Juan Jose Ryp)

Antonius Axia, Rome’s first (and only) detective, is back with a new case: temple statues of the gods are coming to life and killing young nobles and a popular female gladiator is somehow connected. Can he solve the case before Emperor Nero loses patience and feeds him and his son to the lions? 

Peter Milligan and Juan Jose Ryp reunite to bring us the sequel to one of Valiant’s best books of last year, Britannia. But while We Who Are About To Die isn’t bad, it’s unfortunately not as good as the first one was either. 

As talented as Peter Milligan is, his script is flawed - though not fatally. I wouldn’t say it’s his fault entirely either - Valiant’s rigid four issue arc structure means his complicated mystery has to be rushed in places to fit the mould. Like in the Praetorian Guard scene when Axia and Achillia should be completely focused on fighting for their lives, they decide that now is the perfect time to awkwardly spout a ton of exposition. Yeah the superhero comics do it all the time but that doesn’t mean it’s good or that you should do it either! 

And that scene played out in a very silly way. Even if they’re both seasoned fighters, both of them should’ve been skewered seven ways to Sunday! Also when Axia confronts the Senator’s wife who’s pretending she’s upset, she instantly breaks down when challenged and tells him the truth! Space constraints make the story look really amateurishly plotted in these instances. 

The villain is unconvincing and overly powerful while the ending is unsatisfying and made me feel the whole thing wasn’t that well thought out. The feminist angle is anachronistic too - all that “girl power” stuff definitely wasn’t around back then! 

All that said, the gods’ statues coming to life was an intriguing storyline and I still enjoy Nero’s unpredictable moods, making him the most insane “police chief”-type ever - he’s Axia and the Vestals’ protector but could also turn on a dime and be their killer too! Juan Jose Ryp’s remarkable art is easily the best part of the book. Bloody scenes are his speciality and there’s a lot of blood in these pages! Frankie D’Armata’s vivid colours enhance the art perfectly - the art team work wonders in bringing Ancient Rome to life; this is a gorgeous book.

The story is a little shaky but Milligan does enough to make the book readable, and Ryp’s outstanding art definitely helps keep them eyeballs on the page. Britannia: We Who Are About To Die is a disappointingly weak sequel but still worth a look if you enjoy stories about the Romans. The good news is that Britannia is going to be an ongoing so here’s hoping the next one’s better.

1 comment:

  1. You're unfortunately right, as often. Thanks for keeping reading and telling.