Synopsis: Antonius Axia continues on his mission from Nero to uncover the demon that plagues the roman army in Britannia. Though he is there with Nero’s mandate, Axia is met with distrust and aggression from the centurions stationed on the front lines. During his investigation, the “Detectioner” discovers something amiss, and when a wild woman tells Antonius that “he has the Wyrd upon him,” the world’s first detective learns that there is more in this wilderness besides the locals.
Review: Antonius’ investigation in Britannia #2 has not begun smoothly. Images of his dead wife beckon him to join her. As he makes his way towards the specter, he remembers that she is dead, so he strikes the phantom with his sword. The ghost vanishes from sight. Once again, Peter Milligan reminds us that this man is haunted by a traumatic past. A past that attempts to deceive and devour him. Moreover, other aspects of the Detectioner’s past also turn against him.
Being the world’s first Detecioner (aka Roman Sherlock Holmes complete with Watson), Antonius believes himself to have a firm grasp on the motivation of others. To a certain extent, this is true, yet he has a difficult time relating to himself and his former life. The soldiers stationed in Britannia see the former centurion as an outsider. Both his current presence and military history are called into question. The distance between these two points in Axia’s life are very disparate, and it underscores how completely transformed he is since the Vestal Virgins brought him back from the brink of death and insanity. When the soldiers mercilessly abuse a local villager, Axia steps in to quell the violence. Antonius remembers the callousness and rage that sometimes festered within the army, yet he no longer finds it acceptable. This act of compassion is a well placed nuance, and it develops the protagonist fairly well.
The art direction for Britannia #2 enhances the overall reader experience. A mist cloaks what seems like all of Britannia. It reinforces the idea that something is lurking in the shadows, and when that something is shown, it is truly horrifying. The panels with corpses strewn about the battlefield are gory and gorgeous, and Ryp’s pencils really shine here. The only complaint is that sometimes the colors seem a little too dark, so the pencils become a bit muted. This could easily be a conscious decision to enhance the ambiance of the issue, and it works. However, the trade-off sometimes leaves a little to be desired. (Side Note: This issue’s scenes with Nero was just as hilarious as the first.)
Britannia #2 echoes its inaugural issue in all of the right places. The story continues to be fleshed out, and the art continues to engross the reader in a tale of war and terror. Hopefully, the title will maintain this high level of craftsmanship as we cross the halfway point for the final two issues.