DC’s got a new Shade series coming out, so Peter Milligan has been on my mind lately. Turns out that was just in time, because he’s got a new book coming out. Valiant’s Britannia isn’t anything like Shade, obviously, but Milligan’s penchant for the weird definitely shines through.
No, if I had to pick a franchise to compare Britannia to, it’s another franchise I’ve been rambling about lately: Berserk. Britannia is brimming with gore, intrigue and sex. Set at the height of the Roman Empire in 60 A.D., Centurion Antonius Axia is sent to save a missing Vestal. He returns mentally broken and declared a deserter by Emperor Nero, but the Chief Vestal, Rubria, convinces Nero to spare him. Six years later, again at the behest of Rubria, Axia is sent to investigate claims of monsters in the land of Britannia, and finds himself facing his worst fears. This is a dark fantasy in an unusual era, as the Roman empire is not often the setting for such tales. But Milligan crafts an intriguing tale, one that proves somewhat hard at first, but once you give it a chance pulls it in and leaves you begging for more.
Axia is an interesting character himself. He’s not the typical fantasy hero. Axia is noble and capable, but at times comes across as a bit of a coward. His earlier encounter changes him irrevocably, and readers are left wondering just how much of the old Axia still shines through. But there are no good guys in Britannia. Everyone has their own motives, their own goals. No one seems to be what they claim to be. Rubria especially appears to be constantly scheming and manipulating, her true goals known only to her. There’s plenty of intrigue here to keep you coming back for more.
Juan Jośe Ryp (Ninjak, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior) handles the art chores here, creating a world where everyone looks sneaky and up to no good. He has a very skilful handling of the bizarre fantasy aspect, and I look forward to seeing how his art shines through. Jordie Bellaire (All Star Batman, Vision) brings her talents in creating a color palette that is appropriately muddled and dark, even when things seem like they should be bright. The whole world of Britannia looks like it’s been taken advantage of for years, and it’s incredibly fitting.
Milligan’s Britannia is the fantasy throwback I’ve been looking for, and I’m thrilled this book is as enjoyable as it is. A dark, Roman set fantasy is a rare beast indeed, but his creative team handles it excellently. This book has potential to improve as it goes deeper into the weird, insane world of Britannia, and I can’t wait to see more.