The Royals : Masters Of War
Rob Williams & Simon Coleby (with Gary Erskine)
Review by Seth
A recently completed Vertigo series, originally destined for the Wildstorm imprint, featured here as it has been written and drawn by 2000ad creators. That’s my excuse anyway and I’m sticking to it.
Rob Williams has become a toothy regular and for me one of the best writers on Dredd (when Wagner isn’t about anyway). Coleby is known for his work on the excellent “Lowlife” and more recently on the Gordon Rennie written Rogue Trooper Universe set “Jaegir”, all good stuff (to me anyway : I think I’m in a minority with the latter on this site).
The Royal families of this universe all have superpowers. The Second World War is at its height. It isn’t going well for the United Kingdom, Germany’s power is overwhelming and America has yet to enter the war. Prince Henry of the Royal family is frustrated. He sees the suffering of his subjects and he feels he should be doing more for the war effort, but there is an unspoken agreement amongst the worlds’ Royal families that they do not get involved in armed conflict. His father, the seemingly powerless and impotent King opposes his involvement. His brother the obnoxious braggart and womanising drunk Arthur taunts him with his hedonistic lifestyle and over Henry’s clearly incestuous feelings for their sister Rose.
Almost inevitably, Churchill looks to the family for assistance which Henry willingly and gladly provides, but only prompts and escalation of the conflict as the other Royal families become involved despite drawing the US into the war. To make matters worse, there is a traitor in the British government.
Williams’ script is darkly humorous, he’s a sharp and witty writer. The cad Arthur is a stand out, stealing all the best lines. Unfortunately, Henry comes across as being a bit too worthy – apart from the wanting to bed his sister bit of course. Occasionally, the sudden plot / location jumps can be jarring, but this a minor gripe
Coleby seems to have enjoyed himself. Lots of military hardware (though his Spitfires in issue 5 seem a bit off around the nose), references to locations in the great European cities. Gary Erskine comes onboard from issue 4 on inks, and softens Coleby’s bold, heavy line, which improves the art and makes the characters faces more distinct.
Williams & Coleby provide and interesting spin on the period superhero story, it’s more about the inter family relationships then a super powered slug fest – though there is a bit of that too. Weaving people and events from the war into their tale, they have created a compelling story of the consequences of escalation and basically how war is quite a nasty business really, whether you have superpowers or not.