‘Amiculus: A Secret History’ Graphic Novel Review

Reading Time: 2 minutes
'Amiculus: A Secret History'. Image courtesy Amiculus Books.
‘Amiculus: A Secret History’. Image courtesy Amiculus Books.

First, a confession: I’m a history nerd. My undergrad degree is in medieval English history, and I actually read history books for pleasure. While there are a few time periods I’m more interested in than others, I’m a sucker for almost anything historical.

Second, another confession: I’m not a comic book/graphic novel guy. I read all of Buffy Season 8, but that was more about Buffy than about the comics. And I’ve read all of the Firefly graphic novels, but, again, that was more about my general Firefly obsession than anything else.

So when I was given the opportunity to review Amiculus: A Secret History, I was a bit torn. On the one hand, it’s history: it tells the story of 12-year-old Romulus, the last emperor of Rome. But it was also a graphic novel. In this case, though, the history nerd won out, and I’m glad it did.

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of the graphic novel to review.

Amiculus: A Secret History is the first in a planned series of graphic novels written by Travis Horseman and drawn by Giancarlo Caracuzzo. The novel opens in 538 A.D., when the forces of Justinian, the emperor in Constantinople, have recaptured Rome from those who had conquered it sixty years before. The narrator is Procopius of Caesarea, a historian sent with the army to record the events. As soon as Rome is secure, though, Procopius decides that he needs to find out why Rome fell in the first place, so he goes in search of Romulus, who had been exiled to a villa on a remote island in the south, since converted to a monastery. Once there, he begins to unravel the tale, told through flashbacks.

Rome in the time of Amiculus. Image courtesy Amiculus Books.
Rome in the time of Amiculus. Image courtesy Amiculus Books.

This being book one, only the introductory parts of the story are present: we meet Procopius, young Romulus, and the Magister, a cruel man who is the power behind the throne in Rome’s final days. Most of the last act of the book, in fact, features the Magister bullying various people to try to prop up the city’s defenses.

The story is interesting and well told. (It’s important to note that we actually know almost nothing about the real Romulus or the final fall of Rome in 476, so Horseman in many ways has an empty slate from which to work.) The art is likewise extremely nice, with lots of little details in the backgrounds that add a lot of depth to the scenes.

I definitely need to note, however, that the book is for adults. It’s filled with bloody violence and a pretty liberal use of profanity. It’s much more like HBO’s Rome or Starz’s Spartacus. That said, neither the violence nor the language seems out of place or gratuitous in the story.

I think that Amiculus: A Secret History ultimately succeeds, and I look forward to reading the other entries in the series.

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