Publisher: Top Cow
Writer: Bryan Hill
Artist: Nelson Blake II
Colors: Nelson Blake II & Kevin Lennertz
Letters: Deron Bennett
Review by PeteR
The challenge with reviewing comic books is it can become expensive. Occasionally I am requested to review a book from a series I have not read. If I don’t like the book, fine, I’m out nothing but my time. If I like a book…well, that’s when it becomes costly. I had never heard of Top Cow’s series, Romulus by writer Bryan Hill and artist Nelson Blake II. I started reading the fourth issue and was intrigued enough to want to find out what led up to the events in this issue. Yup, I went out and bought the previous three issues.
For those who came in late*, during the time of Rome, a secret organization, called Romulus began working behind the scenes to influence the course of civilization. The enforcement arm of the group is comprised solely by women and called The Wolves of the Ancient Order of Romulus. Axis and by succession her daughter, Ashlar are two of those wolves. Ashlar has been trained since birth in the seven spheres of perfection: Force, War, Fury, Speed, Grace, Pain and Death.
Eventually, as all secret organizations intent on global domination will, Axis is ordered to kill someone who is innocent. Axis realizes that Romulus is not the benevolent organization she thought it was and rebels. In retaliation, Romulus destroys the Wolves temple and assassinates all the other Wolves utilizing their new enforcement arm, the Hunters. Unlike the Wolves who are trained from birth, the Hunters are enhanced pharmacologically. When Axis is killed protecting Ashlar from the Hunters, Ashlar in turn dedicates her life to destroying Romulus. In her quest, Ashlar rescues a scientist named Nicholas who Romulus tried to kidnap to build them a new variety of bomb. Ashlar explains to Nicholas that in order to save five billion lives, Romulus must be defeated. Since the current population of the World is 7.5 billion people, Romulus clearly wants to destroy about 64 percent of the people on Earth.
Ashlar is mentally summoned by a psychic pop-star named Sozo. Sozo works for the Illuminati who are trying to prevent Romulus’s plans. One of Romulus’s Hunters, Achilles captures Nicholas and brings him to one of the leaders of Romulus, Reagan Strauss. Meanwhile, Sozo takes Ashlar to meet her new mentor, Killian who promptly beats her in combat. Killian tries to teach Ashlar not just how to fight but also the philosophy of combat. Killian ultimately tells Ashlar where Nicholas is being kept but also explains that if she attempts to rescue him now, she will fail. Ashlar, of course leaves immediately.
Romulus #4 starts with Ashlar’s attempt to rescue Nicholas only to find out how easily the Romulus organization is able to tempt someone to work against their own best interests. Issue #4 ends the first story arc on a cliffhanger of nearly 9/11 proportions. Yes, I’m being vague because if I tell you everything, why would you go read the comic?
The narrative of Romulus has a number of familiar themes. Young female warrior, secret World order society, mommy issues and a teacher with vision challenges. Writer Bryan Hill is able to take these well-worn concepts and spin them into something new.
The art and coloring of Romulus #4 captured me in the first two panels of the issue. Since I am fairly computer illiterate, I am unable to show you the page in question but if you have ever flown into the Denver Airport, especially when exhausted and at night, you will see what I mean. I did not immediately recognize that the artwork was by Nelson Blake II. Shame on me since I have been enjoying his recent Ms. Marvel covers. He is also providing the art for the most recent Luke Cage series.
The coloring credit for Romulus #4 is shared by both Nelson Blake II and Kevin Lennertz. If you are unfamiliar with Kevin Lennertz’s coloring, check out his website http://www.kevinlennertz.com/. His coloring is impressive.
Romulus #4‘s lettering is done by Deron Bennett. Aside from his work in the word bubbles and captions, his sound effects deftly add to the action.
Why you should buy this book? Like anyone else with some knowledge of pop-culture I have come across the concept of the Illuminati more than once. Occult organizations covertly molding world history is not a new idea but Bryan Hill’s Romulus has, so far portrayed the Illuminati from a unique perspective. Ashlar’s reverent adherence to her mother’s memory makes Bruce Wayne look positively negligent. Sozo, the pop-star who uses her psychic abilities to sway her audiences, is a concept that has been seen in movies like The Fifth Element and the comic book series Rising Stars. While reading Romulus, I did not care that I had come across this premise previously. I still want to know how Szo came to be indoctrinated into the Illuminati and how Ashlar’s company may change her world view.
Ecclesiastes 1:9 “There is nothing new under the Sun.” Between high school and college, I took a couple of courses on the works of William Shakespeare. One of my professors claimed that all the ideas written about in western literature, since the 1700’s could be traced back, one way or another to the Bard. I don’t know if I agree with that but truly new ideas are hard to come by. That does not negate the value of original ways to use previous concepts. Romulus may have familiar ingredients but the results taste completely new.
I started this review playfully bemoaning the cost of enjoying a new series. Not only did Romulus pique my interest enough to search out ALL the previous issues, I am definitely adding to my monthly pull list. So far, it’s worth it.
*The first person who can tell where the term “For those who came in late” comes from, WITHOUT using the internet, will get a shout out in one of my columns.