World War II has always been fertile ground for storytellers as it was such a long and large war that there are endless opportunities for tales to be spun out of it and secondly, it was the last Great War, one that involved the entire world. There have been other wars, but none so big nor so all-encompassing and it fascinated many and continues to do so to no end. Some of those stories have involved superheroes, those put out over the years by Marvel and DC and many other publishers including more recently, Avatar and their title, Uber. The Justice Society, The Invaders, The All-Star Squadron, Captain America, and Superman are just a few of the titles that have touched upon that period in time to create new mythologies all their own. One of the most recent offerings featuring superheroes in World War II is this book which comes from Vertigo, DC’s mature readers imprint. The Royals: Masters of War is a title that not only displays that very subject, but does so with a little twist that makes it quite intriguing as well as extremely compelling to read. In this timeline or alternate universe, those of royal bloodlines have powers that no ordinary men possess. As such, some of them have ruled for thousands of years and they rule their various countries with an understanding so that they might live out their days in peace.
As it was in most cases, World War II would ruin what peace men and women had found in their lives and so it is with the royal families in this book, all because of one son, particularly the Prince of England who could stand to see no more slaughter and thought to do something about it. Unbeknownst to him, this truce between the ruling families of the world is now broken and thus do the royals now become embroiled in the largest war the world has ever seen.
Writer Rob Williams does a fantastic job in crafting this alternate history of a war we have seen through hundreds of eyes. The book is quickly paced as it moves through the events of the war, only slowing down to examine the repercussions and for the world leaders to prepare for what comes next. Accompanied by Simon Coleby who brings it to startling and exciting life, this book is one of the better titles to be released from Vertigo in the last couple of years and that is putting it in some very good company. Sometimes, just saying that a certain artist does his job well is a little underwhelming to the true reality of the situation, but Coleby does his job exceptionally well making each page a true work of art, riveting and captivating and refusing to let your eyes drift away even for a moment. Why the man is not currently on any of the top books in the industry is a real shame.
The characters in the book, everyone from Winston Churchill to the Royal Family themselves, are all fully realized and written with such precision and passion that you feel as if you truly understand them and the troubles they face. How each member of the family deals with the war is interesting in itself as Prince Henry feels as if it is his duty to protect the people and the land he rules while Prince Arthur cares little to nothing about anyone, including his family. The King simply wants to stay out of it and hopes his family does the same so that the royal bloodline might continue as his wife is mad and Princess Rose is on her way to becoming the same. Most people have a hard time choosing between family and duty at times like these, but for Prince Henry the choice is easy and he wishes it were that simple for the rest of the family yet there is little he can do to sway their minds. To make matters more complicated and to add some extra drama to the book, Henry is also in love with Rose, even though she is his sister and Rose loves him back. But war and family manage to keep them apart and when tragedy strikes, Rose starts to disappear into herself and there is nothing that Henry can do except lash out at the enemy.
If there is one series that you would not have minded being fleshed out more to last longer, it would be this one. Rob Williams has created a wonderful, and terrible, little world that is fresh and exciting with some very sharp writing. What was nice to see was that the intervention of the various royalties did not really alter history all that much, instead being written into the pre-existing events as we knew them quite flawlessly to create a tale so entertaining, that coupled with Simon Coleby’s art, turned out to be one of the best books of 2014. With the trade collection available, now is your chance to get caught up on this amazing series. You will thank yourself after you read it.
5 out of 5