Antonius Axia’s journey into Britannia leads him to an encampment of Roman soldiers that has become overrun with madness as the horror continues in Britannia #2. Is it good?
Britannia #2 (Valiant Entertainment)
Britannia #2 opens as centurion Antonius Axia and his slave Bron come across Rome’s shattered encampment in Britannia. A deep fog surrounds the area, and it is there that Antonius has a vision of his deceased wife. Shortly however, they are greeted by the survivors of the Roman Fort, and it is here that writer Peter Milligan begins to build the mystery of the story. As Antonius and Bron explore the new encampment they run across increasingly disturbing behavior by the Romans, who are brutalizing the native people they have captured. Milligan’s captions helps capture Antonius’ concern over what he sees.
Juan José Ryp’s artwork throughout the issue is fantastic; his detailed and quick-flowing lines work well not just for the gore and the body horror of the demon that haunts this land, but also for the worn faces of the broken Roman men, and the sadistic glee of those who have been ensnared by the demon’s grasp. Ryp also gives Britannia #2 a strong sense of realism; the architecture and clothing look appropriate for the time, and there’s a sense of almost primal physicality to the few fight scenes in the book.
It’s impossible to overstate Jordie Bellaire’s contribution to the issue. Britannia #2 relies heavily on the dark and foggy atmosphere of its environment to build up a sense of dread and it is Bellaire’s colors that give the book its tone. From the murky grays and blues of the fog when Antionius envisions his wife, to the use of fire, not just as natural lighting fitting of the times, but to give a sense of Hellfire flowing through the town and ensnaring those within, Bellaire’s colors tell a story in their own right.
Not everything in the issue works as well, though. A brief scene between Nero and Rubria feels superfluous to the story; readers were already introduced to Nero’s perverted nature in the debut, and though this scene might help those who missed the first issue, it still feels somewhat lacking. The mystique around Rubria makes her an intriguing character and it would have been nice to see the issue to devote some page time unveiling what her motivations are for sending Antonius to fight this demon.
As with the first issue, Britannia #2 concludes with an essay, this time by Dr. Graeme Ward of Queen’s University. The issue covers the rank of Centurion within Roman society and how that position changed over time. Though the contents of the issue don’t rely on the knowledge provided in the essay, it still is an interesting read that helps add to the world Milligan, Ryp, and Bellaire are building.
Is It Good?
Britannia #2 continues the medieval horror tone established in the debut to great effect. Peter Milligan continues to build upon the mystery and Juan José Ryp’s art shows just how monstrous men can be to one another. In the end, this is Jordie Bellaire’s issue, and her remarkable colors bring Britannia #2 to life in horrific detail. It’s the gripping atmosphere that her art brings that makes Britannia #2 such an entertaining and suspenseful read.