Sunday, July 23, 2017

Brittania We Who Are About to Die by Peter Milligan, Juan José Ryp

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I got this because the blurb promised an interesting story about a gladiatrix named Achillia. As is often the case, the blurb lied! The story unfortunately featured very little of her, and instead focused far more on the activities of Antonius Axia who is repeatedly described as a 'detectioner' when in fact that isn't how Romans would have described what we know today as a detective. The actual word would have been one we know well: inquisitor. This failure to get simple names right (Achillia is never described as a gladiatrix either) was annoying, but it wasn't the worst problem with this graphic novel.

The worst problem was that there was scarcely a page went by without bared teeth and blood. It was obnoxious and laughable. The blurb describes Juan José Ryp as an "incendiary artist." I never knew that a definition of 'incendiary' was someone obsessed drawing endless mouths full of teeth and graphic depictions of gratuitous blood-letting and violent death. I think Nero the emperor was not once depicted without his teeth bared. It was asinine.

There really were gladiatrices in ancient Roman times, but they were not common. We know of one apparently described as Achillia from a carving found at Halicarnassus, which was the home of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world - the only remaining one of which is the Great Pyramid at Giza. Halicarnassus is in modern day Turkey, and the small carving featured two female gladiatrice. It was labeled Achillia and Amazon, but whether these were intended to be understood as their names is not certain.

This story actually follows Antonius as he tries to figure out why there is so much wanton slaughter going on, of the young men of certain noble families in Rome. His interest in Achillia is really incidental to his investigation, btu she does show up eventually. Unfortunately we never get to know her except in relation to his investigation, so she really isn't the leading female character the blurb led me to believe.

When she does appear, the same illustrator who has zero compunction about depicting endless violent slaughter and blood spatter galore, was evidently squeamish to a fault about illustrating bared female breasts, because Achillia was fully-clothed throughout, which flew in the face of the fact that gladiatrices fought topless, just as gladiators did.

I'm not a fan of splatter-punk in comics or text novels, so this turned me off, but the lack of any real story concerning Achillia was the major downer here. And I have no idea why it was titled 'Brittannia' since all of it took place in Rome. The final insult was that volume four, the last volume of this collection, was completely devoid of text in my ebook copy! It was a picture book only, and as such was utterly useless.

Once I'd ascertained that it was indeed totally bereft of text, I quit reading right there and have to rate this as a thumbs down, not because of the missing text but because of the overall story - or lack of an interesting story to be more precise. When in Rome, all I can do is as the Romans do and offer a Roman warning: legit cave! This has the added advantage of also applying when the words are read as English words! Reader beware as this novel is a legit cave!