Britannia: We who are about to die #4
Writer: Peter Milligan
Art: Juan Jose Ryp, with Ryan Lee and Roberto De La Torre
Colors: Frankie D’Armata
Can the world’s first Detectioner, Antonius Axia, save his son?
What You Need To Know:
It’s not hard to see the influence of Sherlock Holmes on Peter Milligan’s Britannia. The series stars a British detective – the world’s first Detectioner, a decorated military hero who lives in the days of ancient Rome. Antonius Axia has proven too valuable to Nero, and now he’s facing a test unlike any his logic has ever faced before. The gods of Rome – gods Axia doesn’t even believe in – are mysteriously coming to life, driving their own worshippers insane. Antonius is convinced a rogue sorceress, Ellissa, is somehow responsible.
Antonius’s investigation has led him to seek out the gladiator Achillia, a slave who dared kill her master, and yet has thrived in the gladiatorial games. Achillia is an unpopular figure in Rome, largely because her victories are inspiring the women to believe they have an innate value their husbands have never recognised before. There’s a strange tie between Ellissa and Achillia, and it may prove to be the key to the whole riddle.
To Antonius’s horror, though, the third issue ended with his son mysteriously disappearing. A single parent, there’s nothing Antonius takes more seriously than his responsibility to his son. But it seems Ellissa has seen the teenager as a useful way to get at his father…
What You’ll Find Out:
This is the final issue of the Britannia miniseries, and – in the fashion of all true detective fiction – it’s the issue where Antonius must put the pieces together, identify and explain the mysteries, and deal with the villain. It kicks off at the Temple of Apollo Palatinus, as Antonius faces a threat he doesn’t even believe in – the Statue of Apollo itself has come to life!
What Just Happened?
The best detective fiction takes you on a journey, and you walk it alongside the detective (or detectioneer), essentially in a race to see if you can beat the star to the solution. Milligan understands that, and as a result he’s been offering a breadcrumb-trail that leads us to the inevitable solution. Smart readers will have picked up the hints in the first few issues, and deduced just how Ellissa is enchanting men and women with such skill. Sure, there’s still a small element of the supernatural to it, but it’s really not so major an aspect of the book as you’d think at first glance.
The artistic team perform strongly, working well to create a sense of place for each environment. I love the expression on Antonius’s son’s face as he’s introduced to the Vestal Virgins, while the ferocity of gladiatorial combat is so very well conveyed. Ultimately, as should always be the case in a good detective story, it isn’t fighting skills or combat that wins the day; it’s intelligence and the power of deduction. It’s an impressive book.
Final Thoughts: The concept alone is a work of genius, and I can’t help feeling Milligan has put together a starring cast. I’m thoroughly impressed, and look forward to seeing more of the detectioneer and his allies.