By Zack Quaintance — Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #1 marks the first issue of the third volume of this series. I liked the last two volumes, but I’d somewhat forgotten just how good this book is. The answer, incidentally, is very very good.
Britannia is such an interesting conflux of two genres that don’t often meet: historical fiction and police procedurals. That setup is one of its strengths. Another arguably bigger strength is the attentions to both ambiance and character paid by writer Peter Milligan, obviously a student of mythology, the occult, and ancient Rome.
The only discernible change from the first two volumes here (aside from plot, obviously) is artist Robert Gill has replaced Juan Jose Ryp. Ryp is one of the most intricate and detailed artists in comics, but Gill does his own thing here and does it well. It also helps the transition that it’s been more than a year since the end of the last volume. If you’re a returning reader just relax and enjoy...the book is as good as ever. If you’re a new reader, you can start with issue worry-free.
In fact, for Britannia newbies I’m fairly certain each volume stands just fine on its own. It’s been many months since the second Britannia book, and I’ve forgotten a lot that happened. Still, the creative team lies all the essential exposition out in a way that oriented me, and my sense is you’ll also be just fine if you’re totally new.
Britannia also stands apart from the rest of the Valiant Universe (no matter how badly I want the Eternal Warrior to show up). In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t set in it at all, although, admittedly, I may have missed an acknowledgment somewhere that it is. The reason I say this is because Britannia is grounded and realistic, mostly hinting at the occult and supernatural while leaving doubt as to whether it's entirely real. A good comparison might be Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott’s phenomenal Black Magick, which is set in the present day but uses mysticism sparingly as well.
The last thing it’s important to note is that while knowledge of ancient Rome perhaps enhances this book slightly, it’s not vital. Admittedly, my own knowledge of the Roman Empire is scant, and the only effect this has had on me is that when I finished the other volumes of this series, I went to Wikipedia to fill in gaps, which was kind of a bonus, one I hope will be useful for bar trivia someday.
Overall: I forgot how psychologically-complex and engrossing Britannia was until I started this new volume. This is a supremely well-executed comic, one I highly recommend to fans of both historical fiction and police procedurals. One issue in, it's just as good as its predecessors. 9.0/10
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