"Romulus #1" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Top Cow Productions / Image Comics
Written by Bryan Hill
Illustrated by Nelson Blake II
2016, 32 Pages, $3.99
Comic released on October 5th, 2016
There's something that's so cool about secret societies. It could just be that our world is so screwed up, it's easier to believe there are people in the shadows pulling the strings instead of us making it this way. What is perhaps more interesting than secret societies is watching them crumble. Such is the case with Romulus, which introduces a tough-as-nails woman named Ashlar, the last of a long line of Wolves, the enforcers for the Ancient Order of Romulus. Ashlar and her colleagues have carried out key assassinations around the world for ages. Things change and the Wolves are being wiped out. Now Ashlar is turning the tables and taking the fight to her former bosses.
This opening issue of Romulus is split in half. The first part serves as an introduction to Ashlar and this world. The second gets into Ashlar's present day activities. Under normal circumstances, the background information would come through as dry and exposition-heavy. That's not the case here. Writer Bryan Hill provides a stark, detached narration from the main character while artist Nelson Blake II's evocative images pull through strong emotion. They work well together and instantly bring you into Ashlar's mindset.
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The experiences she goes through at such a young age are brutal. We're talking high-profile murders and total bloodbaths. Throughout it all, she's guided by her mother, Axis. There's a deep love there and you can feel the admiration that Ashlar has for her. It's clear the feeling is mutual despite Axis' sharp hand in raising her daughter. In just a few pages, you get fully up to speed on Ashlar's life and are ready to root her on to take down Romulus and everything it stands for.
Blake's design for Ashlar helps with this quick relatability too. She's casual yet efficient with form-fitting jeans, a light jacket, and sneakers. Armed with a short sword, she's ready to kick ass left and right. Romulus has been described as “Buffy fights the Illuminati” and you can see that in Ashlar's look and attitude. There's a great sequence where she's reeling from getting stabbed through her hand. Blood is dripping from the wound. She stares at it for a second, then turns her hand around and throws up a big middle finger to her attacker. It perfectly sums up the character and what we can expect from her. I can't wait to see more.
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The creators also include some interesting back matter that adds to the mythology of Romulus. There's a nice letter from Axis to Ashlar and a memo from a former President. It shows just how deep this secret society goes.
Romulus has a perfect opening issue. It seamlessly introduces you to this world and the main character in a way that makes it feel like you've seen them for years. The puppet masters are still hidden, but I'm sure they won't be for long with Ashlar out there. This definitely lives up to the description of “Buffy vs. the Illuminati.”