Royally Different: My Thoughts on The Royals: Masters of War
If you caught the most recent episode of DC All Access—and if you haven’t yet seen it, you should go watch it now before Tiffany finds out and refuses to take a photo with you at Comic-Con—you saw me interview Rob Williams about his new Vertigo series, The Royals: Masters of War.
One of the perks of working on DC All Access is that we’re occasionally able to read comics before they hit stands (it helps if we’re doing a feature on one of them…or in lieu of that, if you bribe the editors with cronuts), and such was the case with the first issue of The Royals. Knowing this, the editor of the Vertigo site asked if I’d mind writing a few words about it for their blog (apparently, I’m also easily swayed by cronuts).
How do you describe this series? Let’s see… Imagine if the World War II history you studied in high school or college was a comic book, with many of the common comic book tropes firmly in place. We’re talking super powers, colorful and rambunctious characters, massive double-page splashes, betrayals—the works. The world is still at war, Hitler’s invaded most of Europe and is bombing London with frightening regularity and men are still dying by the thousands each week. However, beyond that things are wildly different. The ruling class—the royals—all possess super powers. What those powers actually are can vary, but it’s just the royals, and ONLY the royals, who have them.
So now it’s not just circumstance and wealth that divides the ruling class from the rest of us. It’s super powers as well. And that’s not the only provocative aspect of this series. Rather than going the typical route of having the super-humans battle each other for the fate of the world, Williams and artist Simon Coleby have subverted things. The royals deliberately avoid getting involved in the war, choosing to stay within the palace while everyday men fight and die. At least, until one of them decides that he’s seen enough.
In a sense, the super powers serve a similar function to nuclear weapons in the real world. They exist, but people don’t use them for fear of retaliation. It’s an uneasy system of checks and balances. Actually, it’s even MORE uneasy than our real world counterpart because nuclear weapons don’t have empathy and human desires. Nukes aren’t going to feel bad about sitting idle while people die and decide to get involved. That’s a good thing, and you get the feeling that Prince Henry getting involved in World War II is going to yield some pretty catastrophic results.
Anyhow, I don’t want to give away too much of the actual story, but suffice it to say that if you enjoy wartime history and appreciate thought-provoking comics that don’t skimp on the action, The Royals is likely right up your alley. I’ll be back for issue #2.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours? I’d love to hear your two cents below. (Remember, two cents could actually buy something in the 1940s!)
Be sure to check out Blair's interview with The Royals writer Rob Williams in this week's episode of DC All Access. Click here to watch it.