The Royals: Masters of War by Rob Williams and Simon Coleby

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The Royals: Masters of War by Rob Williams and Simon Coleby

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Buy The Royals: Masters of War by Rob Williams and Simon Coleby at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Graphic Novels
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A great graphic novel that offers a fun, but inventive, look at a most unusual alternative history.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: December 2014
Publisher: DC Comics
ISBN: 9781401250546

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It's World War Two, but not as we know it. The circumstance is building up to be pretty much what we know – the Allies have ideas to land at Normandy, the Germans have rockets ready to pummel a Blighty only just getting over the Battle of Britain, and the Americans are being pressured by Churchill to enter the war, little knowing what Japan would have in mind to force the issue. But many things are different. For this is a world where the Royal blood disease of Europe is not something ailing, debilitating and embarrassing, but instead the giver of super powers. The names in Buckingham Palace are different, but the opulence remains, and with the history of the current incumbents one where their powers are not exercised, people are being tasked with making sure that remains so. But how can you stop an immovable force when it has enough might and strength to turn the tide of the war single-handed?

What's more, the whole balance of who is right and who is wrong – this being war, whether it's recognisable to us totally or otherwise – is hard to measure. Churchill wants one thing, the Royals want – well, their own individual ideas come across writ large on these pages, let's just put it at that, and ignore what happens in the pantry, shall we? A lot is writ large here, but that's not a criticism, for barring one note I would give – that of the coloured boxes to define the speaker of the disembodied voice-overs amounting to nothing when it's people we haven't met – this book is nigh-on perfect.

It's just what I would seek in an adult, mainstream graphic novel from an albeit slightly edgier house. There's graphic violence (and how!), there is a great grounding in reality with the beats of the war playing out familiar to us yet so very differently to what our Pathe newsreels might have shown, and there are zooming supermen and women battling for their own ideas, justice, morals. It's wholly fun, and is quite left-field in treating the European theatre of war as something given due diligence (the floating Royal scions thinking their moonlit flit across the West End is like something out of Peter Pan until they see the reality below them) yet also having a full-on, blood-and-guts comic drama superimposed. And when the drama leaves Europe, well – the imagery is just as startling and memorable as any Hollywood super-hero film would be.

The whole thing is mired in the same high level of audacity, and it's all the better for it. Ignore the subtitle, for this is perfectly self-contained, ignore the doubt you may have about the idea of twisting history so far from what we know, and just get on board. This is a great fun read – succinctly putting across a huge and hugely enjoyable plot, with great artwork and a fine feel for dialogue.

A different war, a very different visual approach - but by no means inferior, is with Charley's War: A Boy Soldier in the Great War by Pat Mills and Joe Colquhoun.

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Buy The Royals: Masters of War by Rob Williams and Simon Coleby at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Royals: Masters of War by Rob Williams and Simon Coleby at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Royals: Masters of War by Rob Williams and Simon Coleby at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Royals: Masters of War by Rob Williams and Simon Coleby at Amazon.com.

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