Written by Gordon Rennie
Art by Leigh Gallagher
Colours by Dylan Teague and Gary Caldwell
Letters by Simon Bowland
On Sale: 25th March 2015
Diamond Order Code for your local comic shop: JAN151569
Published by 2000AD
The Comic: He was one of the rebellious gladiator-slaves crucified by the Romans for being part of Spartacus’ uprising, and in his final moments he cried out to the gods for vengeance. Something heard him, and brought him back from the dead in exchange for his soul. He is Aquila, and he is now the unstoppable instrument of Ammit the Devourer who hungers for the souls of men – and Aquila will keep feeding her until the debt is paid!’
The latest US format series from 2000AD, this is a rip roaring historical fantasy series that spans the lifetime of ancient Rome- from the invasion of Britain to the rise of the Christians and the despotic rule of Emperor Nero…
The Preview: This book opens on the crucifixion of Aquila along with six thousand of his co-conspirators in 71BC on the road between Capua and Rome. Dealing with his origin quickly, we are then thrown into the fates of the sea of time. The book takes us backwards and forth through battles involving the Roman Empire and onto the shores of Brittania as it is invaded.
As the story unfolds we are given more of an insight into Aquila’s curse and the strength and invulnerability that comes along with his extended mission. What it also does is leave him without a soul. He’s a remorseless, blood soaked killing machine. As the body count mounts, he finds himself allying himself with Boudicca: Queen of the Britons and that’s where the story really takes off.
This is easily my favourite of the newly formatted US style comics that 2000AD are releasing. When I first saw it in the weekly format I immediately thought that it was a reboot or rethink of the “Blackhawk” story from the Tornado/2000AD days of the 1980s but while it has similar elements, it’s entirely its own barbarian.
This book is grim-faced and absolutely chocked full of glorious bloodshed. Rennie and Gallagher, to me. have balanced a widescreen epic of a story with all the required 2000AD quirk and I loved every single panel of it.
Whilst the book sits within it’s own quasi-historical world and logic system, you can feel echoes of Robert E. Howard’s Bran Mak Morn, Pat Mill’s Slaine and Michael Moorcock’s Elric character peeking out from behind a Roman Centurion’s shield. It’s not just violent battles: we also get the heart of a warrior through Aquila’s characterisation, battered and burned he fights his way through the pages with single minded determination. It’s also full of magical dreams, spells and portents. It’s not an epic that a newcomer can call the end to, it twists about in narrative and the last few pages will have you guessing as to motives and directions.
I was lucky enough to both get a preview digital edition and be a follower of the original story in it’s weekly format but I think I’ll be picking this up when it comes out as well.
Gallagher pulls an absolute blinder on the art duties. With script pages that must have been full of lines like “Two armies attack each other on a beach” are fully realised in intricate detail. He packs the drama and brutality of war into almost every single panel. You feel the bleakness of the times and the cheapness of life seeps out through the inks. The cover is probably one of my favourites for a while. It’s the mystical/barbarian equivalent of the movie cliche of the hero walking calmly away from the exploding car. It perfectly sums up the interiors and is an explosion of colour and cool.
It’s due out in March so make sure you pre-order. Some preview pages below!
• You can find 2000AD and all its characters and products at www.2000ADonline.com
• You can find Leigh Gallagher at www.leighgallagherart.blogspot.com
• Gary Caldwell can be found on Twitter @GaryCaldwellart
• The mighty Simon Bowland can be found on Twitter @SimonBowland
Many thanks for reading.