The Royals: Masters of War by Rob Williams – issue 2 (spoilers)

The Royals: Masters of War
a six issue mini-series

Published by Vertigo March 2014

Writer: Rob Williams
Artist: Simon Coleby
Colorist: JD Mettler
Letters: Wes Abbott

Cover: Coleby & Mettler

This story is set in an alternate history where the Royal families of the world rose to power due to possessing superpowers. Set in World War II; we follow an alternative House of Windsor. King Albert was born without superpowers but his children, Princes Arthur and Henry and Princess Rose have hidden their powers until now.

An international agreement for super-powered Royals to stay out of wars has been broken, by Prince Henry. Now it is only a matter of time before the other Royals around the world decide to become involved. Most feared is the most powerful Royal lineage of all.

There are spoilers in the main article, spoiling the plot but not the action. I dislike spoilers myself but as this is an alternate timeline I feel it important to mention how the timelines differ as Rob Williams is doing a great job of making it all make sense.

The United States of America are a Federal Republic led by President Roosevelt. As such they don’t have a Royal family nor are they currently involved in the war. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the three Royal superheroes visit USA in a diplomatic mission to bring the large country into the war on the side of the allies.

Prince Akishino of Japan brings an ultimatum. The US Fleet at Pearl Harbour is to engage the Japanese Fleet in open waters or be destroyed at dock. Emperor Jimmu is in command of the Japanese Fleet. Without superpowers the US Fleet is doomed either way.

A very interesting twist to the ‘Day of Infamy’, a clear warning is given in this continuity but it is still infamous as the US Fleet stands no chance against Emperor Jimmu.

This plot is excellent, we get a recognisable world with huge differences and yet see how history still follows a similar path. So far it is structured magnificently and the presence of superpowers is helping keep the alternate history on a similar path making the setting much more than simply dropping super-powered characters into history.

The characterisation of Churchill and Roosevelt as well as the fictional Royals is engrossing. I predicted deeper characterisation in my review of issue 1. There is a vibrancy and believably in them. The very human aspect of their behaviour helps sustain the suspension of disbelief.

Rob Williams has a very different angle on superhero stories. He has written The Ten Seconders for 2000AD where super-powered aliens visited modern Earth and took control as self-proclaimed Gods and Ordinary, a creator owned project printed in Judge Dredd Megazine, where one day suddenly everyone in the world became super-powered except one middle-aged divorced man. Each story a unique look at superheroes.

That is why I am reading this series.

Also there is the stunning art of Simon Coleby. There are many more splash pages than I would expect to see in a 2000AD story, where I am used to seeing Simon Coleby’s art. This has a bold and authoritative look to it. The planes and ships look extremely solid and the characters are expressive and full of living mobility.

The colours by JD Mettler bound perfectly with the pencils and inks of Simon Coleby. The splash on page three for example with Prince Henry flying above the fleet the colours support the perspective and this is sustained throughout giving an epic, cinematic, feel to the story.

Similarly the action scenes such as the double spread on pages 20 and 21 give drama to the attack on Pearl Harbour.

This is an excellent issue that has driven the story forward in a powerful yet measured way. Excellent, truly excellent.

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