Cover B art by David Mack.
Peter Milligan, Juan Jose Ryp, and Jordie Bellaire's Britannia was a delightful surprise last year — and in a year of brilliant comics, its unique take on the world of Ancient Rome still conquered our hearts as one of 2016's bests. So we're as excited as anybody that we can announce that Britannia will return for a second run this year, and io9 has the first details.
Like the initial run of Britannia, Britanna: We Who Are About to Die will be a four-part miniseries printed as part of Valiant's "prestige" range of premium-printed comics. Milligan and Ryp will return for the series, now joined by colorist Frankie D'Armata, which will follow Rome's first detective Antonius Axia on another mystery — one that will see his tenuous faith in the gods explored when a bizarre curse afflicting the populace of Rome's elite starts driving citizens mad with visions of a blood-soaked Apollo.
"We couldn't be prouder of the work that Peter and Juan have done in building the captivating and mysterious world of Britannia," Valiant editor-in-chief Warren Simons said in a statement provided to io9. "Antonius Axia is a vital and important new addition to the Valiant line, and his next adventure will be an investigation into an unthinkable mystery plaguing the dark heart of Rome, its gods, and its citizens."
Cover A by Cary Nord
Check out a few more covers and the synopsis for the first issue of We Who Are About to Die below, followed by a few teasers from series writer Peter Milligan about what to expect out of Antonius' next mystery.
Fifty thousand Romans stand on their feet, watching from the rafters of the coliseum with captured breath as Achillia, a Gladiator unlike any that Rome has seen before, faces incredible odds - one lone warrior against five of Rome's greatest. Such is the tradition, when a female gladiator enters the fray. When the carnage is complete, the coliseum roars its approval as Achillia stands victorious. Now only one match away from winning her freedom, she has begun to gain renown. The women of Rome, suppressed by their husbands and fathers, have noticed. The men of Rome, husbands and fathers to a growing horde of women entertaining ideas of independence, have noticed as well.
On the other side of Rome, a strange mystery swirls through the Palatine Hill. In the dead of night, down winding alleys, Rome's elite swear that they see visions of a blood-soaked Apollo walking the city...visions that are driving them mad. Even more are becoming sick with weird fever god-dreams. Panic ensues in the city. TheChief Vestal, Rubria, is arrested by Emperor Nero and threatened with crucifixion unless the deadly curse that's fallen on Rome is lifted. She asks Antonius Axia, hero of Britannia and Rome's only detective, for help. She offers only one clue... the gladiator Achillia.
io9: The reaction to the book so far has been phenomenal. What's it been like to see all the praise coming in as you started working on the follow-up?
Peter Milligan: I always felt that Antonius Axia — this flawed, complex ex-soldier with his own unique take on ancient life — was a character I wanted to visit again. And I always felt that this world was one that could offer so many different stories. I had a lot of ideas for the follow-up, the work has really been to narrow them down to one story. But seeing how brilliantly the first storyline has been received certainly gives you massive encouragement. Of course, there's a flip side. The bar has been set high. And we're determined that We Who Are About to Die will be just as good, and will get just the same kind of positive response as the first storyline.
Tell us a little about what we can expect to see Axia up to in We Who Are About to Die.
Milligan: I don't want to give too much away — there'll be some surprises in this storyline — but we start in that place that perhaps best represents the dark heart of the ancient Roman empire: the gladiatorial ring. One gladiator is on a winning run. A few more wins and this former slave will win their freedom. But powerful forces do not with this happen…
Meanwhile, terror stalks the streets of Rome. A blood-soaked Apollo seen coming from one of his many temples. The very gods seem to be turning against the Eternal City. Chief of the Vestal Virgins, Rubria, is accused of upsetting the gods. Unless the curse is lifted, she'll hang from one of Nero's crosses. Detectioner Antonius Axia must uncover a link between a gladiator fighting for their freedom, and an angry god haunting Rome.
Full Cover B by David Mack.
This is a separate, standalone story, but can we expect to see some familiar characters from the first series returning alongside Antonius?
Milligan: Oh yeah — Antonius, Bran, Rubria, and Nero. But expect some new and equally memorable characters.
What aspect of Ancient Rome are you most looking forward to exploring in this second run?
Milligan: Britannia looked into life on the far-flung borders of the empire. We Who Are About to Die focuses on life in and around Rome itself, and that fascinates me. I'm also interested in exploring the lives of other Romans, from the poor slave to the wealthy noble. Finally I'm looking forward to digging into the many gods that ruled the lives of the ancient Romans. These gods no longer hold such sway over our more rationally-minded Antonius — at least that's what he thought, until the chief vestal virgin sends him on a mission to save her life…
You're working with Juan Jose Ryp on the book again — how has your work process evolved with him for the second series, now that you have the first book under your belts?
PM: I think it's about trust. Seeing how amazing Juan's artwork was on the first series means I know that wherever the story goes it's going to have that believable stamp that helped make the first storyline so memorable.
Variant Cover by Dave Johnson
Britannia: We Who Are About to Die #1 is set to hit shelves April 26th.