By: Tito Faraci (writer) and Dan Brereton (illustrator)
The Story: A Roman General in the Gallic Wars faces his former pupil.
1. Nice period piece that adds some variety to your reading pile. – It’s nice to see creators using the medium of comics to do things besides telling superhero stories. Even when we get “other” comics, they’re still usually made to appeal to geeky guys somehow. The Last Battle is very different. It seems to be a fictionalization of a snippet of true events (as “true” as anything in a 2000+ year old manuscript can be). The central theme is that of a Roman General who is fighting in Gaul (i.e. France) against the barbarian hordes and is sent on a mission to kill a particular barbarian leader who was trained by the General as a boy. So, it’s kinda like a father being told to hunt his own son. Clearly, Faraci has lots of room to augment the historical story by doing things like giving the General a “dirty dozen” strike force and giving the barbarian leader a strong/proud barbarian woman, and that makes the comic more fun to read. But, unless you read those awful biography comics, The Last Battle is a nice change of pace.
2. Dry and stuck between history & fiction. – This is a pretty dry comic and there was never much emotional connection with the characters (for me). One area where it struggles is in straddling the line between history and fiction. While the added elements were kinda neat, they come at the expense of it being a straight up history story. I read a LOT of history books and many of them are dreadfully dry affairs, but they always have the saving grace of teaching you LOTS of names, dates and places that you can use to impress your friends later (or RULE at trivia games). The actually history portion of The Last Battle is pretty light and mostly things I already knew and since the “add-ons” didn’t cause an emotional connection with the characters, I probably would have preferred a more straight-up account of the Gallic Wars painted by Brereton.
3. Hefty sized! -On one hand, it IS priced at $7.99 and I wonder how many people will pay that given the bitching about $3.99 comics. On the other hand, you get about 65 pages of comic story for that along with ~15 pages of concept art and background on the project itself. So, you’re getting your money’s worth if you’re a page counter. It was also striking to see dates like 2004 on some of the concept art. This project has been in the works for years.
4. Pretty good painted art by Brereton. – I’m generally not a fan of painted art, but I do love Dan Brereton. I think what makes him special is that it seems that most painters who do comics are very married to realism, but Brereton is willing to deviate and it makes him a much stronger sequential artist. This is really a beautiful comic and I can’t imagine how long Brereton has worked on it. Just flipping back through the comic for this review without reading leaves me a little “mouth agape” at how lovely some of the panels are. Just riots of beautiful colors everywhere, but what I love most are the action scenes where Brereton dials back the level of detail to make the characters seem faster and more primal. It’s great stuff.
Conclusion: It’s a shame the “story” isn’t gangbusters because Dan Brereton has worked his ass off making this a pretty book. It isn’t a bad value and if you’re into Roman history or just enjoy fictional stories set in that timeframe, there will be something here for you. Also, do you know how much a 65 page, fully-painted sketchbook would usually cost? This is a chance to own a lot of lovely Brereton art for not much money (story be damned).
Jumping on point?: Perfect jumping on point. While the story could continue from this issue, no prior knowledge is needed.
Grade: B (on the strength of the art alone).