Valiant has become a reliable name for superhero comics, but it’s taking a different approach to the genre with the new miniseries Britannia, which transports readers to Ancient Rome to tell the story of Antonius Axia, the world’s first detective. A psychological thriller that combines elements of horror, fantasy, and historical fiction, Britannia follows the Roman veteran Axia as he’s sent to the titular locale to investigate supernatural occurrences, allowing writer Peter Milligan to explore a turbulent time in British history.
“Since reading I, Claudius by Robert Graves as a teenager, I’ve been fascinated by the Roman world, and how that world affected these British Isles, pretty much obliterating the ancient Druid religion that had long existed until then,” says Milligan. “With the idea of Antonius Axia, I had a way into this story that had been waiting for me to write for some time.”
Milligan describes Axia as an “Ancient Roman Philip Marlowe,” and it’s an intriguing concept for a new Valiant character. It’s also a concept that demands considerable research, and Milligan and artist Juan Jose Ryp are putting in a lot of effort to make the time and place feel real. These preview pages from Britannia #1 reveal the meticulous detail Ryp is bringing to the design elements, and they also spotlight the element of the story Milligan is most interested in exploring: Rome’s Vestal Virgins. “I’ve been fascinated by the power and influence that the Vestal Virgins had,” Milligan says. “At a time when most women had little power, this group of women were at the very heart of political and religious life in Rome.”
The period-specific visual elements pose a fun challenge for Ryp, but he’s most excited about working with the characterizations in Milligan’s script. “What I’m really delighted [to work on] is the treatment of the characters with their characteristics, personalities, and feelings,” says Ryp. “It’s all incredibly potent in the scripts of Peter Milligan. Sometime with two or three words, he outlines a complete personality! That’s incredibly cool and I’m trying to reflect this with my work.”
Ryp is successfully accomplishing this goal, and Milligan is impressed by how well he’s handling all aspects of the artwork. “Juan is really able to recreate the ancient world of Rome,” says Milligan. “The characters live and breathe, but the weirdness, the demonic side of the story is brilliantly rendered too.”
Britannia is a tricky balancing act, but the creative team is dedicated to finding the human drama and staying true to the historical material while incorporating more fantastic genre elements. “I am particularly concerned about fitting all the mystery and magic of Milligan’s script into the historical context of the story,” says Ryp. “I want everything to fit, to make sure the fantasy unfolds, but without blurring the historical background.” Readers can learn more about Valiant’s newest hero when Britannia debuts in September, but in the meanwhile, Valiant has provided The A.V. Club with solicitation text, covers, and preview art for the first issue.
BRITANNIA #1 (of 4)
Written by PETER MILLIGAN
Art by JUAN JOSE RYP
A PRESTIGE FORMAT LIMITED SERIES
COMING SEPTEMBER 2016
On the fringes of civilization, the world’s first detective is about to make an unholy discovery…
Ruled by the Fates. Manipulated by the Gods. Commanded by Caesar. In the year 300 A.D., one’s destiny was not his own. At the height of Nero’s reign, a veteran of Rome’s imperial war machine has been dispatched to the farthest reaches of the colonies to investigate unnatural happenings… In the remote outpost of Britannia, Antonius Axia – the First Detective – will become Rome’s only hope to reassert control over the empire’s most barbaric frontier…and keep the monsters that bridge the line between myth and mystery at bay…
From comics mastermind Peter Milligan and incendiary artist Juan Jose Ryp comes a psychological journey into terror, temptation, and bloodshed – presented in an all-new prestige format limited series!