Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"All of Republic history is under intense scrutiny, from the landing, to the appropriations, the Aztec War, and the RSB scandals. Everything.
"We're a nation coming to terms with its past sins, painfully, violently. And the one constant... is the Valerius family. The Valerius name. My name is Calliope Valerius. And I'm on trial. I've been on trial my entire life.
"I know not many of you like me. The colour of my skin. Or the way I look. My Roman name.
"I get it. You look at me and see a thousand years of suppression and assimilation of native cultures.
"You think just because of my name, that I support all that? Do you all honestly think I'm guilty of century-old war crimes.
"It's not my personal ideology. It's just a name."
The rise and rise and, well, if not quite fall, then painful self-refection of an empire... A Roman West empire that began with a few bedraggled shipwreck survivors being washed ashore on North American soil in 323AD, including one Lucan Valerius, and who then promptly set about building what would become the most expansive superpower the world had ever known. Both by strength of words in negotiation with the local native tribes, but of course also by the sword in conflict. Conflicts. Repeated bloody conflicts.
The Emperor of historical conflict fiction himself, Brian NORTHLANDERS / BLACK ROAD Wood returns in conjunction with fellow scribe Justin Giampaoli and previous artistic cohort Andrea REBELS Mutti to tell this epic alternative building of empire with stories featuring Lucan Valerius and his descendents in no less than eleven time periods from 323AD through to 1989.
We do, of course, get one set in 1492, when a certain Christopher Columbus descends upon the Americas convinced that fame and fortune are his for the taking, only to be given very short shrift by the locals and being very surprised about the fact they are speaking Latin! What's great about this work is the attention to detail, and it's the little conceits, such as an insurgent group centuries later being called the Sons Of Columbus that help make this such an engrossing read.
Each of the stories in and of themselves are entertaining enough, but the bigger picture that builds as we move forward in time is the real story. Precisely how an Empire is built, and who gets assimilated along for the ride or just plain crushed, relegated to a footnote in history, along the way. The consequences of said construction, good and bad, Brian and Justin have also thought through very carefully, as detailed by Calliope Valerius' private thoughts whilst on the stand...
"I want to tell them the world isn't so binary. That there's such a thing as nuance, as context.
"The Valerius family assimilated and incorporated the tribes instead of slaughtering them as the Iberians would have done.
"The Romans introduced a unifying language, but at the cost of hundreds of native tongues.
"We implemented a unifying system of government and equal representation, but it homogenized countless thriving tribes and their unique customs.
"We welcomed... and still welcome...native and pantheon Gods alike, the Prophet, the Christ and the Disciples Of David.
"But we also funded the bloodiest war in history.
"The Romans brought their technology, water and metal works, and of course, their weapons of war.
"Oh, they never let me forget the weapons. From matchlocks to chemical weapons to intelligence, Valerius Arms is the world's oldest, wealthiest company."
Straight out in graphic novel form, this wasn't released in single issues first, just in case you're wondering why you might not have heard much about it. For me it's just as good as NORTHLANDERS.