By Peter Milligan, Juan Jose Ryp, Frankie D’Armata
From the opening salvo to the final panel, Britannia: We Who Are About To Die #3 takes readers on a thrilling and dangerous ride fueled by desperate fear.
This third installment of the four issue mini-series is brimming with action and intrigue. Readers are propelled through the story as the protagonist’s investigation turns into a fight for survival. From the opulent gardens of the wealthy to the congested streets of the commoners, the story shines a light on Rome’s most base behaviors. These dark impulses are at the crux the story, but are by no means the cause, though they flavor the bitterness. Rome is a poisoned apple.
Writer Peter Milligan captures our imagination with the historic setting and magic. The unpredictability of the element of magic raises all sorts of possibilities that keeps the reader guessing. We’re drawing closer to the conclusion of the story, and Milligan reveals the seeds of the conflict as Axia unravels the mystery. There’s still much unknown at this point, however.
The key to the mystery was shown rather than told back in the first issue. Axia deduces some of this, following clues to Achillia. This book picks up directly at the same cliff readers were left hanging from in the previous issue. Axia has discovered his quarry is now his ally, and there is much more to the story than he realized. The initial impetus is revealed, as are the antagonists. A rogue player has changed the stakes however, morphing a defensive move into a devastatingly offensive one, sweeping up innocents and “sinners” alike. The perpetrator is ensuring that the sins of the fathers are visited upon their children. In the mind of the villain, that encompasses all noble Romans, for the sins are both their behaviors and the imperialism of their forefathers.
The story literally becomes a witch hunt as Axia searches for the woman responsible for bewitching the youth. The previous issue revealed that his son has fallen under the sorceress’s sway. It’s a desperate race to find his son before he becomes the next victim. This makes for exciting reading as we follow the breadcrumbs. Even with the knowledge of why, we are left with the mystery of “how”. The fever pitch of desperation leads to a dramatic confrontation without understanding all of the facts. Is it truly gods or all magic-induced madness? Axia (and his son by extension) are threatened from all sides, including those he serves. Milligan’s pressure cooker of a story is nearly at the boiling point. The urgency of the cliffhanger ending leaves readers craving more.
Artist Juan Jose Ryp and colorist Frankie D’Armata bring the story to life with expressive actors who capture the emotional essence of desperation and horror in their visage. The script calls for a range of scenarios including intense battle scenes and murky mindscapes. Ryp does an excellent job of both telling the story and conveying the feel of individual scenes. The physicality of Ryp’s characters is fantastic. Swords feel heavy as they are swung. Crowded roads feel claustrophobic. You can easily imagine the smell. D’Armata’s work aids in the effect. The dreariness and dirtiness of the life of the commoners versus the lightness and cleanliness of the wealthy is apparent in every detail. His use of light is well done, such as the effect of the glow of torches on a scene or the reflectiveness of a blade. This is a gritty story, equal parts horror and action. This artistic team makes the story real – perspiration, blood, confusion – it’s all tangible due to their work.
Britannia: We Who Are About To Die #3 is a sure bet in what has been an excellent mini-series thus far. Milligan and company draw us ever further into the web of deception and mystery, putting us back to back with Axia as we battle with our wits and swords towards the finale.