He was one of the rebellious gladiator-slaves crucified by the Romans for being part of Spartacus's uprising, and in his final moments he cried out to the gods for vengeance," reads Rebellion's description.
"Something heard him, and brought him back from the dead in exchange for his soul. He is Aquila, and he is now the unstoppable instrument of Ammit the Devourer who hungers for the souls of men - and Aquila will keep feeding her until the debt is paid".
25th March 2015 - Reviewer: James Bridcut
Writer: Gordon Rennie
Art: Leigh Gallagher
Colour: Dylan Teague, Gary Caldwell
Published: April 15th 2015
Publisher: 2000AD Comics
Price: £2.80 ($3.99)
Gordon Rennie and Leigh Gallagher's fantasy comic set in ancient Rome is the latest property from the now Rebellion owned anthology to get a US re-release as a stand alone comic. Following in the footsteps of the recently re-issued Ichabod Azrael, this 'sword and sandal' epic initially debuted in the 2000AD issue 'Prog 2012' back in December 2011 and has featured regularly in 2000AD ever since.
The story focuses on the character of Aquila, a former gladiator whose involvement with the legendary Spartacus led revolt resulted in him being crucified along with all the other captured co-conspirators. However, his prayers do not go unanswered and Ammit the Devourer spares Aquila an eternity in the afterlife/purgatory and returns him to the land of the living albeit without his soul - something that will be returned to him once he has completes his new master's bidding.
While an obvious work of fantasy and fiction, the real life characters on which the story is based lived in a very tumultous and war torn period of human history and therefore it is unsurprising that the comic is very violent and graphic. Being a huge fan of the recent Spartacus TV show as well as the God of War video game series (comparisons between Kratos and Aquila cleary exist and this story feels like a fleshed out flash back from the original God of War game) I enjoyed this first issue. While the fractured story required me to re-read portions of the comic to ensure that I had fully grasped the time-line, it did give a feeling of a sprawling epic that imbued a sense of enduring servitude and punishment for the titular character - again not dissimilar to a certain video game Spartan. Akin to Ichabod Azrael this series re-issue wonderfully highlights the depth of characters and IP within the 2000AD stable and reinforces the point that there is more to the publisher than Judge Dredd.
I feel Leigh Gallager's art while competent and detailed lacks any real uniqueness and is unlikely to make the comic stand out on shop shelves that are already teeming with muscle bound, fantasy warriors.
While this first issue is enjoyable it doesn't grab the reader in the same way that recent releases such as Chrononauts, The Dying and the Dead or even Ichabod Azrael do. The nature of the sprawling time-line does mean that there are still plenty of opportunities for Rennie/Gallagher to up the stakes and I'm hoping the comic can build on this solid start over the coming issues. Finally, Aquila follows a series of re-releases for the North American market that are a great way to discover some forgotten gems from the 2000AD vaults.
Story - 6 / Artwork - 6