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TOPIC: [2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War

[2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War 3 years 3 months ago #40256

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Reading Club for August 2014
Book:The Royals: Masters of War
No. of Issues6
Host:600WPMPO
Publisher:Vertigo
Creators:Rob Williams (Author), Simon Coleby (Artist)
Genre:Superhero/War
ISBN:978-1401250546
Where to purchase?:Comixology
Read by:August 31, 2014
Host Rating:coming soon
Community Rating:4/5
Published:2014
Host Review:I'll read this with you all & review it here, issue by issue.
Next Host:to-be-announced


Book Description:
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.
From CBR:
Equal parts Elseworlds, standard-issue Vertigo fare and war comic, "The Royals: Masters of War" #1 is a fresh, unexpected tale filled with familiar notions. Readers the world over are familiar with the concept of royalty perching above the masses, here that perch is fueled by super powers. This is a very sound story on a solid concept with no shortage of action and intrigue. This is a fine addition to Vertigo's modern library.
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Last Edit: 3 years 3 months ago by 600WPMPO.
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[2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War 3 years 3 months ago #40257

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"definitely above average"

It's a lovely narrative. The art-work is fine, if somewhat generic. The characterisation and writing is excellent. The twists in the last episode definitely made up for a lack of pace in issues 4-5.

It made me uncomfortable, though. The War wasn't about super-heroes of any kind. It was about ordinary men and women giving their best. A bit like Rambo 'winning' the Viet Nam war, this reinvention seems suspect. Not just because it's historically inaccurate, but because I think it forgets things that are not ready to be forgotten. I guess Captain America &c. always did the same, but not to the same level, I would suggest. This obliterates the effort of servicemen and women.
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[2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War 3 years 3 months ago #40266

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Spoiler-free Review for issues #1 & #2:

The first two issues are a very interesting take on World War II. If there weren't already enough mayhem, add a few superheroes in the War, and imagine how it would've turned out to be. The story is evenly paced, comprehensible, the dialogue very natural, and the events proceed effortlessly. At times, the story lags (mid-issue), but that's just a lull before the action scenes take over. The art is good, largely photorealistic, but could do better in the faces department.

FDR's dialogue was my pick of the book: "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.”

I give the first issue a 3/5, and the second a 3.5/5. I'm really looking forward as to how this story shapes up.
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Last Edit: 3 years 2 months ago by 600WPMPO.
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[2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War 3 years 3 months ago #40273

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Issue #3:

This one dragged. The book is supposedly more focused on the family conflicts of the superhero British royalty, and to see the two brothers quarrelling again & again is, well, tiring. There's no character in the book which I could relate to, or sympathise with. We are already halfway through the series, and the next issue will most likely define if this wouldn't be yet another alternate supe saga.
The art is consistently good, with some nice splash pages full of action.

This gets just a 2.5/5 from me.
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[2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War 3 years 2 months ago #40279

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Issue #4:

This was a nice issue, almost like a One-Shot (The Royals in Russia?). Now suddenly the focus of the story shifts on to who the spy is, but we still haven't got any answers. I also felt an abrupt change of pace from where the last issue ended, as if I missed an issue in between. Two more issues left, and I'm getting impatient if all this would somehow satisfactorily converge in the end into something memorable.

p.s. The pages featuring the Russian Tsar were really cool.

This gets nothing more than a 3 out of 5.
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[2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War 3 years 2 months ago #40280

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Issue #5:

The series springs back to the superhero family theme it began with. We get to know who the spy is, and there are a few defining moments for the series, making this one of the strongest issues of this book till date. Looking at the series, overall, leaves me very dissatisfied as to the cameos by the other royal superheroes (the Japanese & the Russian). Were they just the pin-up boys? The art stays beautiful, and is one of the key factors for me picking up this book easily.

I give this a 3.5/5, and eagerly await the climax next.
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Last Edit: 3 years 2 months ago by 600WPMPO.
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[2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War 3 years 2 months ago #40281

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Issue 1

Story
This is a single issue that manages to establish the central characters and their conflicts, locate us within a time and place, tease the ending and thereby evoke a scope and scale, and drive us headlong into the action at the end.

Along the way it sets up a world of super heroic British Royalty and address the political problems involved in that concept.

Art
The line work seems deliberately loose and sketchy, perhaps to contrast with the relative certainty of US Super Hero comics. Some of the attitudes of the characters feel very artificial, especially head placement, which suggests a reliance on digital mannequins (one of my pet hates so I am a bit overly sensitive about it). The military hardware is well drawn and always dynamic avoiding the 'floating' problem of some comics. I am not a fan of artwork using blurred effects for focus but that is obviously the chosen style of the wider visas, and it works reasonably well here despite my personal distaste.
The colour pallet is very well done. You always know when and where you are, and the muddy and shadowy tones set a gritty and effective mood throughout.

Overall Impressions
It feels very much rooted in the tradition of British comics to present iconic British characters within a socio-political framework (e.g. Alan Moore's Captain Britain). While we touch on Moore's work I can’t help thinking he would have better situated the royal dynasty within real history. We are left not really understanding which part of the Windsor line we are looking at. It seems deliberately fictionalised but it cuts us adrift with some teasing anchor points like the names to make us want to map out the family. Alan Moore would have probably included a historical letter written by Queen Victoria, or a paranoid newspaper article about secret German aristocratic involvement during in the Great War. It would have made everything feel more solid and historical.


Score
4/5
I would have given 4.5 if there was a slightly more grounded history.


Other Comments
Reminded me of the RPG Godlike at this stage, so I half expected a more physically solid world with powers that were more defined. Not to be but could have been an interesting layer in a longer format. Also get a hint of Astro City in the compact but effective story style. This could easily have been built upon in that manner had the sweep of the story not encompassed all of the war.
Last Edit: 3 years 2 months ago by jkthemac.
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[2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War 3 years 2 months ago #40282

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Issue 2

Story
This issue takes an unexpected turn by pushing us towards the U.S. and the Pacific Conflict. Whereas the first issue sets up an expectation of a European conflict. I will return to this point in 'other comments'. It sets up a potential rival royal family in Imperial Japan and introduces us to a U.S. team by way of contrast. The resulting confrontation on the lawn of the Whitehouse is very effective and sets up an escalation of the story.

The character conflicts set up in the first issue are played with and escalated. However, the Whitehouse ball scene allows itself to drift into melodrama leading to a slightly false note in the overall tone. Arthur's character is being used as a reveal where the reader is already somewhat ahead. Indeed Arthur is often pushed around for the purposes of the plot in the rest of the run.

The grounding of this issue in Anglo American politics feels natural and the underlying contrast of royalty against a constitutional democracy is well executed, especially by clearly situating Churchill as a half-way house by playing on his American heritage and his political agenda.

Art
The art continues to impress, but in places gives a feeling of tracing over photo stock. The Whitehouse and the imperial aircraft carriers are the most obvious examples, but much of the military hardware is done this way and only the final Pearl Harbour scene feels as effective as issue one.

Overall Impressions
Again for a story that deals with an alternative history with recognisable parallels you begin to see how the war is going to be different with Super Hero involvement. This is problematic if you think about it too deeply. It is the kind of thing you can do with divergent history stories, but in this story there is no clear point of historic divergence, and it isn't a ‘secret history’ either because the world knows what is going on, at least in the broad details. Defying or subverting genre works in context, but this feels like a writer playing with the toys of various genres without adhering to any of them. To put it another way it was probably more fun to write than to read.


Score
3.5/5
Seems to skip a bit far away from the premise in some regards. A slightly more nuanced approach to Arthur would raise this issue considerably.


Other Comments
Feels like Williams would have been better off writing this in a more anthology style if he wanted to widen the scope like this. In the context of the whole six issues you never really get a feeling for why the story has taken this diversion. It helps to spin it out for more issues; it makes it cooler and more approachable to a U.S. audience; but it doesn’t quite flow naturally.
Last Edit: 3 years 2 months ago by jkthemac.
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[2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War 3 years 2 months ago #40283

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Issue 3

Story
Wow does this story totally loose its way in this issue.
We have a reasonably well worked outcome from the escalation between the House of Windsor and the Japanese Imperial Household, wrapped around a Watchmen pastiche.
This is where the character of Prince Arthur is revealed fully as the paper thin plot provoking agent that he seemed to be earlier. For a start we don’t get a good explanation as to why he is even tagging along. When I saw him in the first scene I thought we might finally get his character fleshed out a little and give him some motive apart from wine and women, but no. Instead he is awkwardly cast as The Comedian, in both a briefing scene and a confrontation over Miss Independence, you can literally see the joins where Williams has awkwardly used cut-and-paste to insert the whole section into the plot. It is horrid clunky writing that neither suits any of the characters involved nor has any context in the wider story apart from the shocking outcome which doesn’t feel earned.
If Prince Henry is left wondering what he is achieving by being in the Pacific the same goes for the reader.


Art
The art also seems a little more rushed in this issue, the action is still very dynamic but the line work is even sketchier and often very light. The colour of Mettler is still outstanding, and covers a multitude of sins, but a colourist can’t cover up dodgy plot.

Overall Impressions
I think I have made my overall impressions clear but to restate them in a word: disappointment.


Score
2/5
I'm being generous here, at least the main character recognises the mess he has stepped into and decides to go home, so the issue has a coherent theme.


Other Comments
I would rather forget this one. Indeed I will pause in my reviews here for a while so as not to let the disappointment seep into later ones. Will probably post my review of the last three issues tomorrow.
Last Edit: 3 years 2 months ago by jkthemac.
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[2014-08] The Royals: Masters of War 3 years 2 months ago #40284

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I started out really liking it, but as I got further into it, it seemed very reminiscent of The Boys, God is dead and a few other 'Super' stories. on the plus side, nice art and a Good ending.
Overall rating of 3.5/5

Steve
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