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BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #2

by Thegreatmagnet on May 17, 2017

Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp
Color Artist: Frankie D’Armata
Publisher: Valiant Comics
 
The last issue of Britannia did a great job of setting up the new mini-series, introducing a new mystery and a few new players. Rome is experiencing a rash of unexplained supernatural phenomena. The children of the nobility are going mad en masse, and are being drawn to their death, apparently at the hands of the gods, and there is a general mania that the gods are angry. Antonius Axia agrees to investigate and is immediately drawn to a fierce female gladiator who is causing seismic effects amongst the female population of Rome. The new issue moves the story forward beautifully, offering a number of satisfying clues about the events that are unfolding and hints at potential goodies yet to come.
 
As a Valiant fan, one of the most enticing aspects about this series is that it expands upon the magical side of the universe, which has heretofore been largely unexplored. This issue opens in dramatic fashion with a magical feat of tremendous scope, perhaps one of the biggest that we have seen in the history of Valiant. It’s clear that Alissa, one of the primary new players in the series, is trading in some pretty heavy magic. In addition, this issue finally delivers on another plot point that has been teased since the beginning of the first series: the Vestal Virgins do possess some genuine magical power, although we’ve only seen the tiniest hint. The first series hinted that the mystics of Britannia have some kind of kinship with the Vestals of Rome, so it’s probably safe to assume that Alissa shares a connection as well. Time will tell how much this mini-series chooses to reveal about the nature of magic that underpins the universe- they may want to save something for Britannia III. I also find it interesting that Antionius Axia, stubborn skeptic, has now essentially accepted that magic is real. Perhaps they are transitioning him from a Scully archetype to a Mulder. I’m tantalized by the possibilities for his character in the future as a paranormal investigator.
 
Of course, this series is also a detective story, and this issue does a good job of moving things forward by answering some questions, and posing new ones. All clues are pointing to Alissa as the prime player behind the magical incidents, but her motivations are enticingly vague: she wants “them” to apologize. It’s unclear who they are, what (specifically) they must apologize for, and what her relationship with Achillia is. It’s clear that they were both serving as slaves when Achillia killed their master Gaius, but it seems like they are hinting at additional intrigue in the backstory, and Achillia seems to be wrapped up in Alissa’s scheme. The narrative would seem to suggest that Alissa is seeking to spur an uprising among the women of Rome, but I’m wondering if there are other factors at play: perhaps an old grudge between Alissa and the Vestal Virgins?
 
In this issue, we also revisit Antonius’ relationship with his newly-adopted biological son. Avitus. Alissa (perhaps correctly) identifies him as a vulnerable spot for Antonius and abducts him with magic. However, not unlike Trump’s recent exploits with Comey, it seems that this action only served to accelerate the law’s trajectory towards her. I imagine that Avitus will be held hostage, and that there will be a desperate rescue and a climactic decision in the next two issues. Antonius has shown extreme devotion to his son, and it would be interesting to see it tested against his other loyalties.
 
Artwise, this book continues to stun. Juan Jose Ryp is an incredible talent, and I really believe that Britannia is his most polished, consistent work. He Ryps it up, plan and simple. The colors are also great, especially in low-light and night scenes, and water effects. I would point to the dramatic opening pages as a visceral example of the art team’s prowess. As with the previous issue, I would’ve like some more gore, but I think we should see plenty in issue 3 given the way this issue ends.
 
Overall, this is a very satisfying issue. The mystery narrative is progressing nicely, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Milligan takes the story in the next two issues. The art is gorgeous, and it’s reason enough to pick up the book on its own.
 

Our Score:

9/10

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