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by Thegreatmagnet on June 21, 2017

Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Juan Jose Ryp
Color Artist: Frankie D’Armata
Publisher: Valiant Comics
I really enjoyed the first to issues of Britannia: We Who Are About to Die, just as I thoroughly enjoyed the first Britannia miniseries. They introduced a supernatural and political mystery that was shaking Rome, even at the highest echelons of power. The newest issue begins to bring some of the characters and their motivations into better focus as Axia’s investigation progresses. While I may nitpick some aspects of the issue, I’m still satisfied with the miniseries overall as we approach the fourth and final issue.
Since Britannia is first and foremost a detective story, I was very pleased that they have begun to address some of the questions raised in the first two issues. We now have a better idea about the motivations of Elissa, the sorceress who seems to be at the route of the supernatural disturbances. Although it’s clear that Achillia approached Elissa for protection from reprisals during her rise as a gladiator, it seems that Elissa may now be using the situation as an excuse to further her own interests (i.e. revenge for her conquered homeland of Carthage). She may have warned the Senators against harming Achillia while secretly hoping that they would ignore her warnings and justify her attacks on Rome. Elissa clearly seems to be working for herself, given that she refused Achillia’s pleas to stop the violence. I think this may be an important theme of the book: the dangers of using a violent, chaotic tool for your own purposes and finding that the genie cannot be put back into the bottle.
One of the striking things for me in this issue is the state of Axia, the protagonist. Antonius is clearly starting to lose it. His son Avitus has gone missing, and most of the missing Roman youths have recently been turning up as gruesome murder victims. Axia’s mania to find and protect his son drives him to attack Bran, his most loyal friend (and slave). He’s also very aggressive to Rubria who tries to remind him that he’s supposed to be working to clear the Vestal Virgins from suspicion. These actions may seem out of character for Axia, a disciplined Roman soldier and a staunch devotee of logic, but I would assume this is why the second miniseries was set in Rome: Axia’s son is one of his few vulnerable points. However, I hope that future Britannia miniseries are not set in Rome, because I prefer Axia’s heroic inclinations to his personal, familial loyalties.
I was also happy with the additional glimpses of magic in this issue, since magic is one of the most underdeveloped aspects of the Valiant Universe. We begun to see some of the workings of Elissa’s powers, which seem to be tied to a plant called Ulysses’ Nightmare. In one of the scenes, we see Elissa wrapping the plant around something very reminiscent of a voodoo doll. Voodoo is certainly an established concept in Valiant (most notably in Shadowman), and in the past they’ve always implied a connection to Africa. Notably, Elissa is of Carthaginian background, so I’m very curious whether they will establish any concrete ties to voodoo in the next issue. One way or another, I hope that there are additional revelations about how magic works in the Valiant Universe.
I will admit that there are a few things writing-wise that I might nitpick. The first two pages of the issue are essentially recap that add little new, besides an explicit comparison of the backgrounds of Axia and Achillia. The lesson Axia recalls during the gladiator match (cut off the head of the leader?) doesn’t really seem to have an impact on the rest of the fight, as they still need to slice their way through a whole contingent of Praetorian Guard. Elissa’s influence on Avitus seems to be minimal, compared with the Roman youths that she drives to their deaths in issue 2. I also think it’s slightly disappointing that Achillia does not accompany Axia and Bran on their mission, and she’s a non-factor in the second half of the issue. I don’t think any of these issues are significant enough to damage my enjoyment, and I’m hopeful that some of these issues might be addressed in the final issue.
Once again, the art is absolutely spectacular. Juan Jose Ryp is a beast and he’s at the top of his game. He delivers an incredible full-page hallucination sequence that is easily worthy of posters and t-shirts (also featuring incredible colors by D’Armata). Ryp’s fine details are breathtaking, both in widescreen battle sequences and in close-up dramatic shots. The colors by Frankie D’Armata are also beautiful, as hinted above. I love his work in low-light environments (underground, indoors, and moonlight). Ryp and D’Armata are really working together amazingly, and they’re delivering some amazing pages.
Overall I’m very satisfied with this issue. I have a few minor questions, but I will wait and see how the story is resolved in the next and final issue. I’m happy with where the series is going, and excited about what revelations still lie ahead. Among other things, I would hope that Achillia will stick around in future series, since they’ve spent a lot of time building her character. If they deliver as much in issue 4 as they’ve done with the first three, I will be very satisfied with the miniseries.

Our Score:


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