Britannia #1 (Valiant)

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CREDIT: Valiant

Rating: 4.5/5 – A Valiant Combination of Horror and History.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.

I really enjoyed Valiant’s all new Generation Zero series and now they have another potential hit on their hands with Britannia. Let me start by saying that so far Britannia doesn’t feel, at least not yet, like a Valiant book.  That may be in large part due to the art by Juan Jose Ryp. Although Ryp has been branching out into other companies as of late, at first sight the mature tone of this comic made it feel similar to an Avatar book. That may turn some readers off, but that could quickly fade as you realize that Ryp and writer Peter Milligan are developing a deep story that’s both entertaining and historic.

Ryp’s art is as detailed as ever in this first issue. Taking place in ancient Rome, Ryp draws plenty of soldiers in their iconic Roman armor, and women and royalty in their traditional togas and sandals. It all looks realistic with Ryp’s signature gritty look. Emperor Nero is rendered just as you’d imagine him and the women are all beautifully drawn. There is plenty of violence and partial nudity that also lends to that Avatar feel, but it contributes to the story rather than being there just for shock value.  The colors are picture perfect as Jordie Bellaire covers a wide range of the spectrum with reds, greens and grays. Ryp’s pencils work especially well with the violence, but it is the supernatural aspects of the story that I can’t wait to see more of.

Writer Peter Milligan is using real world history and the wonderful setting it provides and throws in some horror and mystery to create something unique. In this issue you’ll learn more about Vestals and the Vestal virgins, priestesses in ancient Rome who protected the city with “magical” powers. They’re a central part of this issue, as well as Rome’s invasion of and battle with Britannia that holds plenty of dark mysteries within its region. Milligan is just getting started by introducing a large cast, including the main character, a Roman centurion named Antonius Axia. It’s his story that we follow as he crosses paths with the Vestals, the emperor, and his initial campaign into Britannia.  We also get a history lesson in a text piece at the end and a beautiful framing sequence by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin that rounds out the beginning and end of this first issue.

This is another strong Valiant debut that feels different than most of what they’re publishing, but in a good way. I also have to mention that the cover by Cary Nord is haunting and contains an exceptional logo. With the cardstock cover and the text piece after the story, this book is quality from beginning to end. It is refreshing to see Valiant branching out into things that feel so totally different from what they have done before.  I’m looking forward to more!

Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
(shawn@comicspectrum.com
)
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