We begin Britannia #1 with some backstory; back in 60 AD, Nero was in charge of a male dominated world. The only women that held any power were known as the Vestal Virgins. These women are taken from prestigious families while young, sworn to 30 years of celibacy and seem to possess “powers.” These girls use their powers for many different very important things around Rome.
We move to a woman pleading with one of the Roman guards to break away from camp in order to save one of the Vestal girls. At first, the guard refuses, and the woman pleads with him. Meanwhile, we see that the Vestal girl is about to be sacrificed by some masked men. Moments before her demise, the Roman guards burst in and attack. All that survive are the main guard, Axia, and the girl. Soon, however, the room begins to fill with something strange...
Back in Rome, we find out that the cave emits some type of gas, and it is this gas that made the masked men see their gods. It also drove ol' Axia crazy. The Vestal women decide they can cure him and set about to do so. This eventually leads to the girl that Axia saved sleeping with him as a way to “shock” his mind back from that cave. It seems successful, but not everything seems to be right with Axia...
Let's start with the art; awesome. My favorite artist (not comics art, like museum art) is Alphonse Mucha, and this art style is very much like his work. I love the colors of everything. Things are very realistic and detailed and very charming. Even details like the inside of people's mouths (maybe a weird thing to notice) are done well, and it's clear the artist puts a lot of time into his work.
All of the writing and dialogue is good; people talk in a way that you would expect ancient Romans too, but not so over the top that it might be obnoxious to read. Nothing too unexpected with conversations between characters, but still nice dialogue overall.
I enjoyed this book. The art was fantastic, and this is an underused and refreshing time period with a little bit of supernatural thrown in. I will say that overall, and this is a plague to first issues especially, as it was a bit of a slow burn. Not to say that nothing happened, there was violence and sex and all kinds of fun stuff, it just took the very last panel before I saw something that made me really excited. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in either the time period or perhaps if you were into that Spartacus show that was on a while back.
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Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Format: Ongoing; Print/Digital