BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1 by Peter Milligan and Juan José Ryp
Art
Plot
Characterization
Summary
BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1 perfectly melds its detective story, Roman setting, and supernatural elements.
100 %
Roman Rule

BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1 is a high-concept detective noir, wrapped in a gladiator story, wrapped in a horror movie. This first issue successfully balances each of these elements but never feels overstuffed. It is a dense and rewarding read. Writer Peter Milligan and artist Juan Jose Ryp set up an intriguing new mystery.

Sherlock Romes

BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1
Image from BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1 courtesy of Valiant Entertainment

In the previous series BRITANNIA, Antonius Axia became Rome’s first detective. He used his incredible deductive abilities to solve a supernatural mystery that took place, as the title suggests, in Britannia. Now, in BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1, Axia returns home as Milligan shifts the action to Rome. The change of setting is refreshing and allows for the exploration of two engrossing elements: haunted Roman temples and gladiators.

The normally cool-headed Antonius is pushed to his limits after a series of statues begin murdering wealthy Roman citizens. The last series wonderfully established Antonius as a man fueled by reason. He was skeptical of his colleagues’ blind superstition. However, BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1 has Antonius viewing these supernatural crimes with his own eyes, challenging everything he believes in. Milligan has set up quite the mental challenge for Antonius.  It is a great twist to watch such a strong-headed character grapple with his own beliefs. Issue one ends with Antonius first stumbling onto some early leads in this mystery.

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The New Gladiator

BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1
Image from BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1 courtesy of Valiant Entertainment

A series of clues leads Antonius to the gladiator arena, where he sees the vicious female gladiator Achillia in action. In the opening of the book, we see her as a slave being tormented by her oppressors. In a moment of passion, she fights back and murders her masters. The following gladiator scene is gory, visceral, and perfectly framed against Achillia’s violent rebellion in the beginning of the book. Milligan provides a lot of insight into this new character in the very short amount of time she appears. It will be interesting to see how Milligan juggles a new main character and splits the spotlight with Axia.

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The Ugly Truth

BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1
Image from BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1 courtesy of Valiant Entertainment

Artist Juan José Ryp brings the same detail and gruesomeness to his characters that he did in the last volume. His Emperor Nero is gross and smarmy. All of the wealthy Romans are grotesque and sloppy. The soldiers are not perfect heroic clones. It is refreshing to see a comic artist not fall into the trap of making the characters’ faces blank or having everyone be perfect anatomical specimens. Ryp’s exaggeratedly ugly depictions reminded me of the fun villains in a DICK TRACY comic.

The most outstanding example of Ryp’s talent is in the gross-out murder scenes. The comparison between the dismembered Roman bodies and the serene yet bloody statues around them is powerful. There is one particular close-up of a haunted statue’s face that is equal parts menacing and calm — it is pure nightmare fuel. I can’t wait to see how Ryp ups the ante in future issues.

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Final Thoughts on BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1

BRITANNIA: WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE #1 is a great follow-up to the original series. It benefits from a compelling change of setting and the addition of a haunting mystery. It is great to see a creative team push themselves to new heights and not just coast on their earlier achievement. I am looking forward to seeing how the second issue connects all the compelling new ideas this issue has introduced.

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