Valiant Entertainment 2017
Written by Peter Milligan
Illustrated by Juan Jose Ryp
Coloured by Frankie D’Armata
Lettered by Dave Sharpe
After defeating the Demon Orkus--who was revealed to be Roman--Antonius now works in Rome proper, using the powers gifted him by the Vestals and the Codex to solve cases as the world’s first detective.
I am so glad that they are back with another tale here. The first one was spectacularly well done and while it took place in Britannia that was still under control of Rome well it set the stage beautifully for this. There’s just something inherently interesting about a man given knowledge that men have possessed before and then to use in service to someone to keep the world safe and his patrons unmolested. The first detective in recorded history and Sherlock Holmes wishes he were like Antonius!
I love what Peter is doing here it really infuses the whole idea of Nero’s Rome with what we know of it from archeology and our own deduction of the time. While the further history goes back the more it’s subjected to interpretation since records and such aren’t as reliable and decipherable as people would like us to believe and yet with everything we know of this time Peter manages to bring some of the best and worse to light right away. There’s just something about the way he’s writing this, portraying the characters and the kind of characterisation that we’re getting which continuously proves why he’s such a magnificent writer.
I’ve been a fan of Juan’s for what feels like forever now and I’m always excited by what he’s working on. This is no exception and the attention to detail that he has with the use of page layouts to demonstrate his eye for storytelling is beyond amazing to witness. Even the non-background linework to create something visual here is what sets him apart for me and makes him one of those rare few that i’ll pick regardless of what it is. His use of angles and perspective make this wonderful to read as do the faces and facial expression of the characters. You can see the pain, awe and anger in their eyes and it’s powerful stuff.
So this is at it’s heart a detective story and as such we need a mystery to solve and a villain to catch. But this is also a Rome filled with Nero’s men, spies and Vestal Virgins who all conspire with and against the men of the senate to gain power and control. So with women’s rights more or less trampled, an assistant whose perception is limited and an Emperor who is literally quite mad there’s a lot going on here. So much so that while at times it’s hard to see how they will all intersect in the course of the story it’s definitely setting the stage for something thrilling.
Peter has pulled me into this hook, line and sinker with his use of the gods. They were the reason people did anything back then after all. From partaking in too much drink to the possession of slaves and their treatment it was at the whims of the gods. Heck even the Vestal’s rely upon their god in ways we don’t really understand and that would appear to be the basis of the Catholic Church.
Batman and Sherlock could learn a thing or two from Antonius and so could you. This is why we continue to read books and find series that challenge what and how we think.