Review - Britania: Lost of Eagles of Rome #1 (@ValiantComics)

"The eagles are venerated by the soldiers. For a Roman Eagle is more than simply the symbol of a legion--it represents the emperor."

The Roman Empire was a force to be reckoned with. And many opposing forces did just that, most of the time to their detriment. In Britania: Lost of Eagles of Rome #1 from Valiant Comics, that might is tested when a symbol of power goes missing. The issue is written by Peter Milligan, illustrated by Robert Gill, colored by José Villarrubia and Diego Rodriguez and lettered by Dave Sharpe.

The Roman standard – the eagle borne at the front of each Roman legion – was more than just a symbol of the soldiers that carried it… It was a symbol of Rome itself, the ultimate embodiment of the empire’s power. But now, in the mist-shrouded Germanic forest of Tottenwald, the unthinkable has happened: A rampaging barbarian horde has crushed three of Rome’s most highly skilled detachments in battle… and captured their mighty Roman eagles. His authority threatened by this all-too-public shame, the mad emperor Nero has dispatched Antonius Axia, the empire’s finest “detectioner” and hero of Britannia, and Achillia, the sword-wielding champion of the gladiatorial arena, to reclaim his stolen relics at any cost. But what began as a simple mission will soon become a terrifying journey into the dark heart of belief itself as the isolated woodlands of Rome’s enemies reveal unseen dimensions…and the true power of the legion’s lost eagles threatens to consume any who would pursue them…

Milligan's approach in Britania: Lost of Eagles of Rome #1 is interesting in that it blends together religion and empiricism in an era predominantly driven by superstition. Antonius Axia and Achillie are a soldier and a gladiator tasked with finding Nero's missing eagles and the narrative follows along with their buddy cop routine. Milligan knows the concept works, but he makes it even more intriguing by his characterization of Nero himself. Milligan depicts Nero as a true despot, intent to request that everyone around him bend to his narcissistic whims and tantrums as he loses sight of the larger picture. It'd be one thing to say that Milligan was tapping into present-day leaders (or one in particular), but instead he's relying on historic accounts and that provides a great motivation for the lead characters.

Gill’s artwork in the book feels very appropriate in how it captures the might of the Roman Empire. Every character is illustrated with an attention to historical detail as Gill emphasizes the pageantry of the military garb extremely well. There are some gorgeous (and meticulously detailed) full-page shots of the machine that is the Roman army that really help to underscore the pervasive sense of military might at the time. The panels are an array of insets and overlays that are laid out in a way that allows the reader to easily keep up with the story progression. Colors by Villarrubia and Rodriguez are dim in their presentation, helping to emphasize the drabness of the uniformity of the Roman Empire.

While the book is very much in the Valiant Universe, it still feels like it’s entirely its own story. Antonius and Achillie are an odd pairing whose dynamic works pretty well despite their differing lots in life. Milligan’s script is evenly paced, presenting the book as something of a whodunnit set against a historical backdrop. Gill's illustrations are robust in their presentation, effectively capturing the essence of the Roman Empire at the height of its power. Britania: Lost of Eagles of Rome #1 is an interesting read that doesn't require a lot of commitment on the part of the reader to understand what's going on.

Britania: Lost of Eagles of Rome #1 is available now.