Aquila: Blood of the Iceni

2000AD has a reputation for hard-hitting, violent stories that pull no punches, though these are often dressed up in fantasy or futuristic clothes.

Aquila is a little different, given that it takes place in a historical setting that takes its cues from real events and even features genuine historical and religious figures. That’s not to say that the fantastical elements aren’t there of course – they are, with witchcraft, Gods and the occasional monster.

Following the failed slave revolt led by gladiator Spartacus – who was previously a slave – another slave-turned-gladiator named Aquila is crucified along with many others who participated in the uprising. Dying a slow, painful death, he calls out to as many gods as he can name – and Ammit the Devourer answers his pleas, granting Aquila immortality in return for the souls of evil men. Aquila then makes it his mission to cut a very bloody swathe across the Roman Empire to satisfy the needs of the Devourer.

Even by 2000AD standards, Aquila’s stories – five of which are contained in this volume – are incredibly graphic and gory. It can be overbearingly nasty at times, particularly given that there’s little in the way of any humour to counterbalance the grimdark tone.

It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, given that there’s buckets of blood flowing through many of the pages, with heads and limbs flying all over the place – as well as some fairly vivid descriptions of sexual violence (though thankfully, this isn’t depicted in a particularly graphic way) during the story featuring an understandably revenge hungry Boudicca.

I’m not sure that I enjoyed Aquila in the same way I usually enjoy comics – it felt very heavy going at times due to its grim tone – but it was definitely an eye opening and sometimes eye watering history lesson, even though it does take a few liberties with actual history along the way.

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