Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Well comrades, is she not worthy of Helen, or Venus herself?"
"A goddess among goddesses!"
"Imprisoned in the ice!"
Hmm... the moment I read that particular panel I had my suspicions there was going to be a fair degree of tragedy, to complement and counterbalance the saucy sexual antics, brutal violence and ribald comedic elements. Laying claim to ownership of gods and goddesses rarely ends well for those concerned. In the case of Publius Cimber, exiled Roman knight, it's going to be a long, tortuous punishment for coveting the affections of his icy maiden indeed.
Well, it would be if it weren't for the fact that one of his colleagues had murdered him and assumed his identity. Hmm... pretty sure stealing the identity of a well known knight, brother of a Roman senator, exiled by Julius Caesar himself, is merely compounding one's already idiotic behaviour, but at least we will have chance to enjoy his travails whilst he is forced to endure them. This opening chapter of rapturous discovery in a wintry corner of the far reaches of the Roman Empire of 44 B.C. gives little away regarding the carnage, chaos and sexcapsades to follow.
Publius Cimber, by the way, is the brother of Lucius Tillius Cimber, or Metellus, to use the name Shakespeare gave him in his play Julius Caesar. Those of you who know your Classics, or indeed perhaps your Shakespeare, will know that Metellus was one of the conspiring senators involved in the assassination of Caesar. Indeed, his theatrical plea for a fraternal pardon was the successful diversionary tactic employed to get all the conspirators close enough to enact their dastardly regicide. Or liberating decapitation-strike, depending on your point of view. That event, forever framing the 15th of March in infamy, forms this work's second introductory chapter, before we really get into the meat and drink and various other hedonistic pursuits proper.
I have seen this work described as a sort of sequel to the Latin work the Satyricon Liber which translates as The Book of Satyrlike Adventures, again giving you a pretty good idea of what to expect. There are those experts who claim the Satyricon as the first true novel, which it may or may not have been, but it certainly provides intriguing, salacious insight into how the chattering classes of Rome lived at the time. With libations and salutations primarily, I think. I'm not entirely sure I agree with the term sequel, though. This work seems to me to serve as more of an homage, appropriating liberally certain plot strands of the Satyricon, but also adding in additional themes and expanding the storyline - encasing it, really - in a very sophisticated comic tragedy. I think a certain young bard from Stratford-upon-Avon would wholeheartedly approve of the treatment, actually.
The black and white art is the closest thing I have seen to woodcut style recently. The thick black ink penmanship minded me a tiny bit of both Robert Crumb (which I believe is a comparison that has been made by the French press before) and Dylan Horrocks (though a fair degree of that is the lettering, I think). I can think of a number of other random minor points of comparison that surprised me reading through from Joe Daly to Shiguru Mizuki, make of that what you will. It is a very bold, stark style, which despite that is immensely engaging.
Who would like this? Well, anyone who loves a great, sexy, action-packed story punctuated with bawdy laughs, basically. And people who love classics. So really, pretty much anyone. Ah, except people who like a happy ending, I suppose. Unless you count well deserved comeuppances...