Royals: Masters of War (DC/Vertigo)


Rating: 3.5/5 – Super Powers added to the WW II mix.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Andrew Sanford.

The DC brand once known for breaking exciting new properties has lost some titles recently so I was glad to see this new title on the shelf.  This piece features writer Rob Williams, artist Simon Coleby and colorist JD Mettler bringing us to an alternate version of World War II with the twist that the various royal houses of Europe actually have super powers.

The books starts with the much used device of an action scene to tempt the reader, and then flashes back, but not quite, to where the book started.  Personally I feel this device is over-used and don’t think the narrative requires it in this instance.  The “twist” to the ending is neutered by this cold opening.  The pacing goes pretty well but it feels like more of the story could have progressed.  I presume the creators wanted the first issue to end with a surprise which would have happened had the story been told straight chronologically.

Our protagonist is an idealistic young prince (Henry) who was forbidden to interfere with the war.  When he chooses to interfere, there are repercussions.  Much of the book is spent showing Henry chaffing at his father’s restrictions until he can’t take sitting by idly and chooses to strike back.  Prior to his rash actions, tensions between not only the Royal family but British high command are well described and the storytelling is solid.  I have no confusion over characters or the sequence of actions.  For the opening actions scenes, they use the technique of slightly blurring the backgrounds.  I would imagine this effect is used to simulate depth of field as you would have in a movie or TV show but I find it distracting and it removes me somewhat from the story.  The book is graphic in violence but restrained in bloodshed.  The older brother to Henry provides a little comic relief with an ominous undercurrent.  The art style feels like a good fit for a Vertigo book except for a few slight issues with integrating the characters and the background.  For example there is a scene where Prince Henry is supporting a burning bomber but it does not seem to have the weight of a real object above him.  This is the exception however.

This first issue does feature a sneak preview for the new American Vampire series and two process pages for The Wake.  While not wanting to discourage free content, the fact that it is all placed at the end of book creates a minor illusion.  Years of reading comics has taught me to judge the nearness to the end of a story by the weight of the pages remaining in my right hand.  Here we hit the end of the story but my hand tells me we have more pages to go.  A trivial issue, especially for our friends that read digitally but it does give the illusion of less story content.

We seem to be in the midst of a revival of World War 2 comic books, particularly those with a twist.  This six issue limited series seems to be a fine addition to the mix.  Given the storytelling style of the first issue and the nature of its limited run, for me this feels like an excellent book to wait for the trade on unless you really want those sneak previews (which I understand).  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Reviewed by: Andrew Sanford
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