I was lucky enough to review the preview of Caligula Imperatore Insanum (translation: Caligula, the mad emperor) but am thrilled to have now read the entire graphic novel. James Kelly (writer) and Christie Shinn (art) have brought history to life in a manner that would be pleasing to Caligula himself.
The comic begins with the death of Caligula (also known as Little Boot) at the bloody end of his tumultuous reign. Claudius, Caligula’s uncle, takes over quite unwillingly and reflects on how bad Rome must have been for him to end up as emperor.
The reader is transported back in time to Caligula’s reign, where we find him sleeping with his sister, one of Caligula’s many quirks, and then back even further to the time of Tiberius, the emperor before Caligula. We learn the beginnings of Caligula and the madness that surrounded and shaped him.
There are lots of sordid panels for readers to enjoy: murder, incest, evil plots, paranoia, crazier than crazy uncles, and mysteries galore. James Kelly seamlessly weaves the tales together, taking readers into a history unlike any other. The small liberties taken (for instance, calling Caligula Little Boots instead of Little Boot) are forgivable by any history buff and bring a great sense of wonderment – maybe the creators’ supposition on certain events and behavior could be true. One may never know.
As stated in my original preview of the comic, from the glorious cover to the final pages, the artwork holds true to the comic’s time period and story. Shinn does a fantastic job of relaying the crazy between the covers. The cover is the perfect image to cover Caligula’s life.
The end of the book holds some fun, as well. The gallery holds three wonderful renderings of Caligula. The appendix includes the history of events in the comic as told by Suetonius (Roman historian at the time). This is a wonderful addition, as it helps those unfamiliar with Roman history to immerse themselves in the world, while refreshing the minds of those who love the time period.
I believe this comic will fascinate many readers, and I’m excited to see what Caligula adventures Kelly and Shinn impart on us next. My overall impressions of the comic can be summed up in three words: Little Boot lives!