“Amiculus: A Secret History: Vol. I: Roma Aeterna” is the first in a trilogy about the fall of the Roman empire. Not the decline, we go straight to the fall. And at the epicenter, so it would have seemed, was the boy king, Romulus, the last emperor of the west. As far as boy kings go, he was as inept and childish as they come and was easily manipulated by his overseer, the Magister. In this issue, we get to see the Magister make minced meat out of Romulus and anyone who proved to hinder the precarious western front of the Roman empire.
Creator and writer Travis Horseman does a wonderful job of bringing history to life. His narrative, along with the sharp artwork of Giancarlo Caracuzzo, reminds me of the historical graphic novels of Wayne Vansant. There’s that same urgency in the lines drawn along with a mission to get it right. In this case, Horseman is not attempting to organize actual facts. He is filling in the blanks to a nearly nonexistent story about the real Romulus. And to further propel the story, he has created the shadowy figure of Amiculus, a supernatural entity that controls events behind the scenes. It’s not quite clear what powers he has but it’s clear he’s feared and omnipresent.
Rome was not built in a day nor did fall in one day. However, some days are more fateful than others like when Romulus ceased to reign in A.D. 476. Our story begins in March, A.D. 538. The armies of Justinian, the emperor of Constantinople, have retaken what was left of the Roman Empire. Procopius of Caesarea, is a historian embedded with the army to record events. He’s our narrator. Once Rome is secure, he sets out to find out why Romulus disappeared from the picture some sixty years prior. Of course, the boy king, if he should still be alive, would have quite a story to tell. For the meantime, Procopius has the next best thing, a book that outlines the last days of Romulus’s reign as written by Romulus himself.
You can see that Horseman and Caracuzzo are having a whale of a good time with this comic. I’m glad this title can be added to the noteworthy work being created in comics. Let me tell you one thing, and I’ll gladly say it again, if I hear or read one more person chirp that comics aren’t for kids anymore, I’ll slap them silly. Here, pick up a copy of Amiculus, and you can clearly see yet another example of the mighty power of the comics medium. Those who continue to use the lame catch phrase “Comics aren’t for kids anymore” are hiding under a rock. They have chosen to hide under that rock. Amiculus lives somewhere in the region of an “all-ages” comic. Not totally since, gosh darn it, there is some mature content. However, it boils down to PG-13 fare: mild language, relatively mild violence. Hey, it’s the fall of Rome. There will be some blood and some swearing. So, yeah, from teens on up.
As a great mystery and a gateway to history, “Amiculus: A Secret History” is a worthwhile read with colorful characters, intriguing elements, and one wild tale to tell. It will be fun to see how the story unfolds in the rest of the trilogy. For more details, visit the official Amiculus website right here.