Milligan And Ryp Bring The Very Real World Of Female Gladiators To Britannia: We Who Are About To Die
One of the surprises in comics last year was Valiant's Roman-era murder mystery Britannia. Peter Milligan (Shade, The Changing Man) and Juan Jose Ryp (Black Summer) combined to tell a truly unique story featuring what could be the earliest detective in literary history. A second series, Britannia: We Who Are About To Die, kicks off April 26th and brings the god Apollo from the heights of Olympus to the back streets of Rome. In the new story, Antonius Axia investigates a series of bizarre, supernatural happenings connected to a blood sacrifice at a pagan temple and the gladiatorial arena and a female gladiator.
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. The Chief 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. Rome's newest gladiator has cut her way to the top…but can even she escape the wrath of a mad god set loose upon the world of men? Antonius Axia is the only one who knows for sure.
The idea of a female gladiator is not new, they really existed and fought in the arena. They were rare, but they did exist. This is an expert from a history piece on BBC.com
Female gladiators – or gladiatrices – were rare, and were marketed as a novelty attraction, but they did exist. There was clearly an erotic edge to the image of women fighting in the ring – the natural descendants of the quasi-mythical Amazons – not least because female gladiators fought topless. There is a marble relief in the British Museum that was found in Halicarnassus, depicting two women – the names Achillia, a feminised version of Achilles, and Amazon are inscribed beneath them – facing one another. Each has a sword and a shield, greaves and arm-protectors. Their pose is athletic and impressive.
Britannia: We Who Are About To Die #1 features covers by Cary Nord (X-O Manowar), David Mack (Daredevil), Adam Gorham (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Universe), and Dave Johnson (100 Bullets).