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The Royals: Masters of War #2 – Review

By: Rob Williams (story), Simon Coleby (art), JD Mettler (colors)

The Story: The Justice Society of America, they ain’t.

The Review: I first remarked, when this series started, on how surprisingly immovable history had turned out to be in the Royals world.  Up until the point when Henry decided to step into the WWII game, events haven’t deviated much from what we know.  A narrative necessity, perhaps; if Williams had to spend any time explaining how superpowers changed things, we’d probably be halfway through this mini before he could start telling his actual story.

Still, you have to wonder how so much has managed to stay the same, even though the concentration of power among royalty would necessarily change prospects for the modern democracy.  It’s hard to believe, for example, that the U.S.A. would exist at all if in response to the Boston Tea Party, King George III (who definitely did not take kindly to seeing all that lovely tea dumped into the drink) flew over and freeze-rayed the rebel colonists.  Looking at the pitiful efforts of America’s current vintage of blue-bloods, you can’t imagine what made old George hold back before.

Anyway, the days of holding back are over for the Royals.  Had Henry limited his intercession to the one bombing raid, things might have stayed in control, but his continued involvement with the British military—practically flaunting his power by Winston Churchill’s direction—inevitably invites other nations’ sovereigns to step in.  The power balance in the world is about to be permanently rocked off-kilter.

Historically, America’s industrial might and seemingly endless resources helped turn the tide of the war, but as you see here, these are insignificant strengths against the power of Japan’s imperial family, the world’s oldest continuing hereditary monarchy, and Jimmu, first and current emperor of Japan.  As a direct descendant from the divinities that allegedly gave the Royals their powers, he displays strength that makes even the British royal family look feeble, tearing up an American battleship with two hands.

F.D.R. recognizes his country’s peril and resists committing himself and his countrymen to a war they can’t win, but he’s soon forced to admit, “It’s too late.”  It’s significant that after taking pains to disguise his paralysis for the first half of the book, he confronts Prince Akishino in his wheelchair, a symbol of America’s exposed weakness.

As a result, the Allies—the nations allied against the Axis powers, not the dog-and-pony team of super-buddies the U.S. government cooked up—can no longer look to America for succor.  Even worse, both Russia and France have lost their nobility to revolutions, depriving the good guys of even more royal power.  That leaves the U.K. to carry the Allies on the shoulders of Henry and his two siblings, and mostly on Henry.  Arthur has gone from apathetic to downright hostile in his reactions to his brother’s cause, and Rose, though still supportive, is proving emotionally unfit for battle, especially after Arthur’s scandalous outburst to Henry at a presidential ball: “You’re in love with your own sister, man!!”  By Henry and Rose’s shocked but silent reactions, I’m guessing there’s some truth to the accusation.

Coleby is a competent artist in the sense that he can render pretty much anything with accuracy and attractiveness, but his storytelling craft leaves something to be desired.  In an issue full of talking heads, he makes little effort to enliven the proceedings, preferring for some reason to take shots from above or behind the characters, draping them in shadow, or otherwise obscuring their reactions.  Despite his ultra-realistic style, Coleby is not a terribly engaging artist.

Conclusion: Williams plays out his premise well, and Coleby draws it acceptably, but it’s missing that extra zip to truly reach greatness.

Grade: B-

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - Even in fiction, F.D.R. is a total boss: “I do not want war.  The American people do not want war.  If you attack us, then by God we will fight back, and we will win, but you will be attacking a reluctant and unprepared foe.  And I see no honor or respect in that, sir…only cowardice and malice.”  The man’s got my vote.

- A Nazi spy among the British royals, huh?  And gee, what a coincidence that Arthur randomly engages in some German at one point during a visit to an American army base.

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