Valiant Comics has a tapestry of outstanding, carefully crafted and connected comics, but they also do some provacative work outside of the Valiant Universe, like the sellout hit, Brittania. It had to go to 10 printings just to meet the demand. It's follow-up, Britannia: We Who Are About to Die, was another success. Writer Peter Milligan came up with a supernatural procedural, set in ancient Rome's harsh setting and cutthroat political environment. Think of a mash-up between HBO's Rome and Hellboy. Today, Valiant announces a new mystery for history's first detective, Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome, a four-issue mini-series that also serves as a jumping on point, with the first issue hitting shops on July 25.
Antonius Axia dives back back into the world of hideous monsters, unexplainable magic and vicious conspiracy at the boundaries of human understanding. In this story a horde of barbarians have toppled the Romans and taken their proud Eagle relics. Needing to save face, mad emperor Nero calls upon Antonius to save his hide, but their retrieval will be anything but a simple task.
Collaborating with Milligan on Lost Eagles of Rome is Harvey-Award nominated artist Robert Gill (Book of Death) after Juan José Ryp penciled the first two volumes. Cary Nord and Brian Thies will draw the 50/50 main covers while a David Mack variant and a black and white sketch variant of Nord's main cover will also be available.
SYFY WIRE spoke with Peter Milligan and Robert Gill about their upcoming story.
With Volume 1 of Britannia being largely about one man and fighting both personal demons and real demons, Volume 2 really gave me a larger sense of Britannia as a whole, with the introduction of Achillia, Rubria’s struggles, the people who inhabit it. What are you looking to reveal in Volume 3 that either builds off of the first 2 volumes or is something else unique on its own?
Peter Milligan: Hopefully it’ll be pretty unique, but this story certainly builds on and adds to the two stories that have gone before it. I wanted to give a greater senses of the sheer scope of the Roman world, the Roman empire. In the first story we see its northern border, Britain. In the second we see its home turf. But in LOST EAGLES OF ROME we expand eastwards, and see how the empire encompassed Egypt, too. I was interested to see the clash of Roman culture with this even more ancient culture of Egypt.
Peter, you developed Antonius Axia as “history’s” first detective, especially in Volume 2, what new ground are you looking to pave with the character, as well as Achillia, in Lost Eagles of Rome?
PM: I’m interested in playing with the sexual tension between Antonius and Achillia and how this is affected by the way Antonius sees himself as a moral person. In short, Antonius is not the kind of man – he likes to think – who would take sexual advantage of a woman while she was a slave, while she was not free (i.e. as Achillia is in this story). But will this commendable moral stance withstand the long journey to Egypt and the cloying perfumes, heat, and magic of that exotic land?
Does the relationship Antonius has with his son develop any further in Lost Eagles of Rome?
PM: Avitus is growing, just as he was growing in the second storyline, and this brings its own challenges and certainly affects the father and son relationship. There continues to be a sense of guilt that Antonius feels over those lost years when Avitas was a boy and thought that Antonius was his uncle rather than his father.
A detective can often be a powerful mind, but only when his mind is in good working order. Having seen what Antonius Axia has been through in Volumes 1 and 2, what is his mental state going to be in Lost Eagles of Rome?
PM: As we pick up with Antonius, he is in fine form. Remember, though he has a keen intellect, he also has the toughness and durability of a soldier, and this helps him get through his many vicissitudes in good working order.
I’m fascinated at the concept of Vestal Virgins, even the non-Vestal women feared them. Now, one could imagine that the women of this time had limited roles, so were the Vestals created to sidestep this, or was there a historical perception that existed back then that women had supernatural powers over men that you based this on?
PM: Yes, sometimes when you do research for a story one thing in particular really grabs you – such was the case with the Vestal Virgins. They’re incredibly interesting. You’re correct, most women of this period had very limited rights. This was not the case with the vestals, though I don’t think it can quite be said that they were created specifically to side-step this inequality. The idea of women in the ancient world being seen as somehow closer to the supernatural or the sacred is a fascinating one and there’s something to it: while writing about the Vestals I remembered an old Greek vase I saw, showing satyrs and woman dancing. Evidently the satyrs showed their “otherness” by being not men but satyrs – while the women didn’t need to be transformed into beasts because being women was enough to show they were somehow “other” or closer to the divine or sacred. I think this idea was probably at play with the Vestal Virgins.
Juan José Ryp was the artist on the first two volumes, having infused a lot of gore and violence in those pages. In Book of Death, Robert Gill proved to be no slouch in this department, Peter, talk about what it’s like working with Robert on the new volume?
PM: I’m very excited about working with Robert on this book. I’m sure he’ll make it fresh and exciting while being true to the characters and feel of the earlier stories. From what I’ve seen, Robert is excellent with character, and I feel that beyond all the clashing of swords and supernatural weirdness, the characters are key to this book.
Robert, what you are aiming for in Lost Eagles?
Robert Gill: I'm aiming to bring an epic scope to this series with both the louder and more violent pages as well as all the quieter scenes. I'm very much looking forward to giving life and emotions to the characters while building a very believable, gorgeously detailed world around them. I've always loved drawing ancient/fantasy architecture, weapons and armor, and all the rest, so this book couldn't be more of a dream project to work on.
Robert, was the allure of drawing Britannia being able to mix up monsters and demons with Ancient Rome, or did you jump at the opportunity to work with Peter Milligan to story to tell that not just works on a visceral, visual level, but also a psychological level, which Peter often dabbles in?
RG: Yes to all of the above! I admit I've been jealous of Juan as soon as I had learned he was doing the first series (and then the second), so I was both very surprised and super-excited when I was offered the chance to work on this third series. To be able to draw monsters and demons and Ancient Rome all in one book is such a ridiculously exciting thing for me, but to have all that infused with Peter's talent for incorporating deeper psychological themes and more complex storytelling just makes the whole thing that much more appealing to work on. This definitely isn't a superhero book, and that's exactly what I'm in the mood for right now.
Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #1 will be available for pre-order and will be on sale July 25 through comic shops and digital formats, priced at $3.99 for each issue . Below is the Valiant's solicitation describing the new series and see below for a full gallery of the covers to issue #1.
The Roman standard – the eagle borne at the front of each Roman legion – was more than just a symbol of the soldiers that carried it... It was a symbol of Rome itself, the ultimate embodiment of the empire's power…
But now, in the mist-shrouded Germanic forest of Tottenwald, the unthinkable has happened: A rampaging barbarian horde has crushed three of Rome's most highly skilled detachments in battle… and captured their mighty Roman eagles.
His authority threatened by this all-too-public shame, the mad emperor Nero has dispatched Antonius Axia, the empire's finest "detectioner" and hero of Britannia, and Achillia, the sword-wielding champion of the gladiatorial arena, to reclaim his stolen relics at any cost.
But what began as a simple mission will soon become a terrifying journey into the dark heart of belief itself as the isolated woodlands of Rome's enemies reveal unseen dimensions...and the true power of the legion's lost eagles threatens to consume any who would pursue them…
$3.99 | 32 pgs. | VALIANT PRESTIGE | T+ | On Sale JULY 25th