COMIC BOOK REVIEW: THE ROYALS: MASTERS OF WAR / AUTHOR: ROB WILLIAMS / ARTIST: SIMON COLEBY / PUBLISHER: VERTIGO / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 16TH
World War II is fertile ground for superhero stories. The whole sale destruction and the global upheaval has provided a handy backdrop for well-received comic books such as Kieron Gillen’s Uber and Grant Morrison’s Zenith. With this is mind, writer Rob Williams’ latest graphic novel, The Royals: Masters of War, adds a slight wrinkle to the idea. Rather than super-humans being something developed during the war, what if they had always been around, refusing to interfere with conflicts between normal people?
The Royals: Masters of War focuses mostly on a fictionalised British Royal family, with the Windsors distilled into four or five basic stereotypes. Great power runs through the bloodlines of nobility across the world, and each royal line is a weapon of mass destruction of sorts. A pact keeps them from interfering and this all goes out of the window when the young Prince Henry loses his temper during a blitz. Henry has a Superman-style power set, and this escalation leads to the war becoming much harder and more violent for everyone involved.
The central plot is fairly straightforward; each royal is pretty much a two-dimensional cliché, so we have arrogance, murder, incest and self-centred stupidity as the main traits for character development. Add to this a rather fuzzy and vague bit of world-building and what we have is a great idea presented in a rough and rather poor way. The Royals: Masters of War could be a great examination of power, privilege and responsibility. Instead it’s just another superhero story, all be it a rather entertaining and violent one.
Simon Coleby turns in decent art throughout the book, but at no point does it particularly stand out. The large amounts of military equipment and locations are reasonably well researched and look good, but most of the characters appear to be very similar. It’s tight and extremely well done artwork of the sort we’ve come to expect from DC. It’s good, but like the main story, isn’t quite different enough to be remarkable.
The Royals: Masters of War is a good read, though it mostly feels like the opportunity for something far greater and more interesting has been squandered. Still, if you like seeing people successfully punch tanks, then this is for you.
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