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Britannia #3

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By Peter Milligan, Juan Jose Ryp, Jordie Bellaire

Something wicked this way comes with the arrival of Britannia #3 (of 4). The Peter Milligan-helmed historical horror thriller is a pulse-raiser, thrusting readers into the midst of a bewildering and bloody mystery.

Might and magic collide in this tale taking place in the harsh Northern environs of Roman-occupied Britannia. Milligan’s hero, Antonius Axia, is a former Legionnaire, a warrior who has survived the unbelievable and emerged from the other side as a learned man. Armed with the knowledge of the Vestal’s Codex which gives insight into the behaviors and motives of men, he uses early psychology to aid his investigations.

Well-known for his success, Axia is sent by Roman emperor Nero to the far reaches of empire where rumors of bizarre murders and demons plague the area. Something is indeed rotten in Britannia. Axia’s investigation points him in multiple directions, and he soon discovers that this is no ordinary case. Wherever there are men there also be monsters, but in this case, Axia learns that “better the devil you know” does not apply here.

In this third issue, readers are fully immersed in Axia’s struggles and investigation. There is a sense of urgency as the stakes are raised. From the first panel to the last, readers’ emotions are manipulated alongside Axia’s as we are taken on a ride fueled by adrenaline, fear, and memories.

Milligan offers a few revelations in this book, but keeps readers guessing as to their further meaning. There is more at work here than the standard corruption of those who would exploit circumstances to their advantage – there is the added element of the “wyrd” – wild magic. This ups the danger and the uncertainty, for magic often behaves erratically, but at the heart of this story is a man-made mystery. Discovering the true motives behind the events will be the key, but it may also be Axia’s undoing.

Artist Juan Jose Ryp and colorist Jordie Bellaire create the perfect atmosphere for this supernatural story. Ryp has some fantastic action sequences, including a heart-pounding sword fight where his panel breakdown echoes the sentiment of Milligan’s writing. Ryp has a talent for character acting, and this shows in every grimace, smirk, and sideways glance that his characters make. His depictions of the beguiling Bodmall wielding magic are especially effective, giving off a sense that her otherworldly gifts are very much part of the earth. His visages of evil (not the devil you think) are frightening with expressions laden with malevolence. It’s within these characterizations that the true horror of this story lie; not within the monsters but within the monstrous, and Ryp captures that sentiment perfectly. Aiding his efforts is colorist Bellaire, who captures the emotions of this troubling time with subdued earthy tones for the country, and richer, warmer golden tones for the more decadent Romans.

Allow yourself to be mesmerized by Britannia #3. This third book delves deeper into superstition and magic, but keeps one foot firmly on the ground as Axia chases leads into dangerous territory. This is a smartly written tale occurring in an atypical time and place, effectively illustrated and colored to the greatest effect. Fans should be looking forward to the conclusion of this thoroughly enjoyable miniseries. Hopefully it won’t be the last we see of the “Detectioner.”

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