Writer Peter Milligan (Hellblazer, Justice League Dark) is back with a cracking-good mystery: Emperor Nero has charged Antonius to find the three Eagle standards – symbols of Roman power, or in other words, Emperor Nero himself – lost during a Roman battle in the Germanic forest, Tottenwald. Antonius is joined by gladiator, Achillia. Because of the loss of the standards, Emperor Nero is struggling to maintain power over his people and the various institutions in Rome, such as the Vestal Virgins. Antonius and Achillia work together to cut through intrigues and lies to locate the standards and return them to Rome.
If readers have not read prior volumes of Britannia, Milligan summarizes Antonius’ background before picking on the third story arc titled “Lost Eagles of Rome,” so new readers can pick up the story without going back and reading the first two volumes. While the series is known for its supernatural elements, in this story arc, Milligan focuses on mystery and political intrigue, with a few mentions of magic. The mysterious elements intertwined with Antonius’ internal narrative, which gives the historical context, results in an absorbing and enthralling story. Antonius is a fascinating character, and his deductive reasoning seems rational and engaging. Although this is Antonius’ story, Achillia has moments in which she shines for her knowledge as an accomplished fighter, and, honestly, the banter between her and Antonius is entertaining. The one weak aspect of having the male-female dynamic was the inclusion of a potential romance (It felt a bit forced.); however, Milligan does give a twist with regards to the romance which was refreshing. The editing contributed to a well-composed story that set a tone that was not overly wordy, nor did it come off sounding like a history lesson which could have happened with Antonius’ internal dialogues.
This four-issue story arc was illustrated by Robert Gill (X-O Manowar, Ivar, Timewalker), with assistance from Juan Castro (Aquaman, Files of The Suicide Squad) and Brian Thies (Star Wars: Legacy; Harbinger). Gill’s art style harmonized the epic historical aspects of the story with Milligan’s mystery narrative. The panel layouts kept the visual fresh, along with managing the POV to capitalize Roman power, for example in the opening pages of the first issue. The color palette is fairly subdued with allows certain colors to pop off the page, particularly the red of the Roman uniforms (capes) and the red of blood spilled. The lettering was clean and well placed on the page, providing visual cues to denote if it was internal dialogue (Antonius) versus the dialogue between the characters. Additionally, each cover encapsulated their respective issue well, yet were varied and engaging.
Fans of historical mysteries will gravitate towards Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome. Although there were fewer supernatural elements in this volume, Milligan’s story is still just as interesting and riveting as the first two volumes. And, just a reminder, a new reader can pick up this volume without having read the first two Britannia stories. “Lost Eagles of Rome” is an enjoyable read and a satisfying mystery.
Creative Team (Issues #1 – 4): Peter Milligan (writer); Robert Gill, Juan Castro and Brian Thies (artists); José Villarubia, Diego Rodriguez and Andrew Dalhouse (color artist); Dave Sharpe (letterer); Cary Nord (cover artist, issue #1-2); David Mack (cover artist, issue #3-4 and collection cover); David Menchel (assistant editor, issues #1-4) and Benjamin Peterson (assistant editor #1); Karl Bollers (senior editor); and Joe Illidge (executive editor)
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
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