"Aquila #1" Comic Review
Written by Jeff Tolbert
Published by 2000 AD
Written by Gordon Rennie
Illustrated by Leigh Gallagher
2015, 32 pages
Comic released on March 25th, 2015
Aquila is the bloody tale of a Roman gladiator, crucified for his part in Spartacus' rebellion, who is chosen by the Egyptian demon Ammit to serve as her harvester of souls. Made essentially immortal by the demon, Aquila's sole purpose is to kill, collecting evil souls for his demonic mistress to feast upon. So, lots of fun.
Issue 1 of the mini-series has the eponymous Aquila hacking his way across the Roman Empire, eventually winding up in Roman-occupied Britain. Here he is captured in the sack of Camuludonum and burned alive in a giant wicker statue, only it doesn't work because of the stuff in the previous paragraph. He busts out of the wicker man, carves up some of the native Britons, and meets queen Boudicca, who promises him a worthy quarry—another like himself, brought back by Ammit but apparently free of his debt to her—if he will help her take Londinium. He immediately agrees, and infiltrates the Roman city where he meets the one called the Spartan, the other chosen of Ammit.
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Gordon Rennie's writing is good, and the setting—Roman Britain—is fascinating. I'm not an expert in Imperial history, so I can't comment with any authority on how accurate the book's history actually is, but it certainly seems right. The references to the tribes of ancient Britain and especially the infamous warrior-queen Boudicca are gratifying and help to situate the story of Aquila in a very specific historical epoch. The narrative at times feels like a Romanesque version of God of War—Aquila is an awful lot like Kratos—but this doesn't stop it from being interesting and entertaining.
Leigh Gallagher's art is very old-school and Heavy Metal-esque: people are ugly, everything is gritty, and blood spatters gleefully across the page. All of this makes sense and fits the tone of the narrative well.
Despite its satisfying low-fantasy violence and interesting setting, though, Aquila is ultimately comic book potato chips: you'll keep eating given the chance, but there's not much substance. There's no character depth whatsoever, and no identifiable protagonists or antagonists. It's just a story of killing, with Aquila himself serving more as an excuse to explore the setting than a character in his own right. But it's a great setting, so the superficial characters can be forgiven.
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