In a shared universe of super heroes, aliens, hoodoo, and psiots, Valiant has taken some pretty big steps outside of the norm. When the company first relaunched back in 2012, they rode heavily on nostalgia. Not saying that the creative teams were bad, in fact quite the opposite, but they were using old intellectual property and the current popularity the big super hero craze to sell their new brand. This all changed in 2015, when the company branched from their traditional superhero stories to something fresh and new. The first big shake up was with Ivar, Timewalker, Imperium and Divinity. These were about new characters, new places, and new ideas that had never been done within the company before; and in some cases in the industry. I think that this was important because it marks a moment where Valiant could have stagnated (like Marvel and DC) and told the same stories over and over and over again, but instead they dedicated themselves to growing and changing. This is new to any publisher out there with a shared universe, and it is exactly what everyone has grown to expect from the creative teams over at Valiant; talented, innovative, and ground breaking.
Britannia embodies every aspect of this. Peter Milligan’s writing was absolutely outstanding, in several ways, as was the line art from Juan Jose Ryp, and the color art from Jordie Bellaire. All together this group has brought something not only new to the Valiant Universe, but also the comic book industry as a whole.
As I said, Peter’s contributions for this issue were insane. To sum up the overall story, without any spoilers, centurion Antonius Axia is asked to investigate a missing person by the Chief Vestal. As a result he is tossed into a new world of horrors and nightmares. There is so much more, but you will have to buy the issue to find out. The way that Peter set up the story to be pseudo-historical was genius, especially since it revolves around a cryptic and mystical subject of the Vestal Virgins and Pagan Gods. It is as if he managed to merge an encyclopedia with an H.P. Lovecraft story. Not to mention that this is the best dialogue I have EVER seen him do. The transformation of character within the Chief Vestal alone was… amazing. I wish I had a better word for the magic he worked, but his writing was at the top of his game for this issue.
All of which was reinforced by the incredible, and awe-inspiring, Juan Jose Ryp. This guy has been around the industry for quite some time, and for the past couple of years he has been doing work for Valiant. I first noticed his work in the pages of Legends of the Geomancer, and my obsession for his art has only grown. Meaning that when I saw that he was on this issue my expectations were unreasonably high. This, fortunately, was not only met, but exceeded. Juan squeezed a ton of detail into each panel. His expressions for Nero were hilarious, as was his take on the naked male anatomy; I think it is funny that he was allowed to show big ol’ man titties, but not a single female nipple was to be found.
In addition to Juan’s work, I was also ecstatic to see that Jordie Bellaire would be blessing this book with her colors. To save you, and myself, for being overly repetitive, I will keep this part short. Jordie’s work on this issue tickles me green with jealous rage. The way she moves flawlessly from night and day leaves me stunned, but what really blew me away was how she handled that land of Britannia. She colored those scenes so well that I actually felt damp, dreary, and cold. Just incredible.
Which is actually a perfect summation for this book as a whole. Just incredible. There is not a single part of this issue that I could find a flaw with. Moreover, this story, so far, seems to be separate from the Valiant Universe, so new readers can jump on board without any prior knowledge about the shared universe. This kind of writing and art is exactly what Valiant needs to be concentrating on, branching away from the norm and bringing something entirely new to the industry; quality over quantity, a motto that has always been synonymous with their brand. Besides the publisher, this creative team works so well together, building off of each other’s strengths. Britannia #1 is a must buy for ANYONE who says that they are a comic book fan. I give this issue a 5 out of 5.
Written by PETER MILLIGAN
Art by JUAN JOSE RYP with RAUL ALLEN