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Comic Book / Aquila

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Aquila is a Historical Fantasy comicbook published in British anthology magazine 2000 AD.

The man who became known as "Aquila" was a Roman gladiator from Nubia who joined the slave uprising of Spartacus before being crucified in 71 BC when the rebellion failed. After praying to the gods, his call is first answered by The Devourer, an Eldritch Abomination which feeds on the souls of the wicked. Aquila is resurrected by the Devourer and given superpowers so that he can walk the earth and bring more souls for her.

Loosely based on an earlier 2000 AD comic that also featured a Roman gladiator named Black Hawk, which was more sci-fi oriented.

This comic provides examples of:

  • Acrofatic: One of Nero's pets is a giant obese gladiator who keeps the Nubian warrior Aquila busy for a while. He mentions that it was previously one of his uncle Caligula's playthings.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Nero, traditionally held to have red hair, has platinum blonde hair here.
  • Anti-Hero: Aquila has a noble goal, freeing Rome from the tyranny of Nero, but he's by no means friendly, and initially indifferent to the plight of the Christians in Rome.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Triscus' comment on whether Rome will survive a fire: "She's survived Gaulish invasions, the reign of Sulla the dictator and the wretched poetry of that pompous old bore Virgil. She'll survive this too."
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Nero takes advantage of Aquila fighting a fat gladiator to give himself a painless poison that will also salvage his soul from Ammit's clutches. Aquila, however, gets to him before the poison finishes its work and kills him quite painfully.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Nero and Locusta, joint rulers of Rome, are the ones responsible for the country's chaotic state.
  • Blood Knight: Aquila himself is an unstoppable war machine, but his "brother" The Spartan is an even better example. He was resurrected by the gods not because he prayed to them for mercy, but his sheer hatred from being denied the chance to kill again upon his own death impressed them so much that they turned him into an immortal warrior.
  • The Caligula: Emperor Nero (who is incidentally the Trope Namer's nephew) is a total lunatic who spends most of his time having people tortured and crucified by the thousands to end his boredom.
  • Camp Gay: Downplayed by Triscus, who keeps commenting on handsome and/or muscular men but otherwise behaves normally.
  • Cat Girl: The priestess of Isis has a cat's head.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Roman, Egyptian and Celtic gods (and Jehovah) all coexist (far from peacefully) and give power to their followers.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Boudicca dies when Aquila knocks over her chariot and stabs her, instead of taking poisons to escape Roman captivity.
    • Conversely, Nero poisons himself in an attempt to escape death at Aquila's hands, and being fed to the Devourer, instead of stabbing himself. Sadly, it doesn't kill him fast enough to prevent Aquila from putting a sword through his mouth.
  • Dirty Coward: Locusta is very quick to pin the blame for all the shit she and Nero did on her cohort, even begging for a quick death as the oppressed citizens seal her to be devoured by the demons she summoned.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Ammit the Devourer. From what little we've seen of her, she's a bloated monstrosity that's all tentacles and mouths and feasts on the souls of the damned.
  • Eunuchs Are Evil: The high priest of Attis and Sporus, Nero's pet gladiator, are both eunuchs, and both of them are callous individuals; the high priest has a malicious smirk as he tries abandoning Aquila to get killed by his god, and Sporus attacks Aquila himself to buy Nero time to kill himself. They also both qualify as Fat Bastards, judging by how unbelievably fat they are.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Boudicca is able to make a last request of Aquila before he kills her, having accepted her fate. It helps that she had a vision showing her that the Romans will be expelled, that the Britons will have their own Empire, and that she would be remembered as a warrior queen.
    • Subverted with Nero, who consumes a poisonnote  to painlessly kill himself but Aqulia catches him before it can take effect, brutally slaying the man, leaving his corpse with a twisted expression of horror on his face.
  • Facial Horror: The Spartan's head is missing most of its skin.
  • For the Evulz: Most of what Nero does is strictly for his own amusement. He even refers to torturing Christians with knives as 'playing' to Locusta.
  • Funetik Aksent: Felix has a Cockney accent to demonstrate his Lower-Class Lout tendencies.
  • Full-Frontal Assault: The Britons capture Aquila and lock him in a burning wicker giant, but he escapes, with all his clothes burnt off, and starts slaughtering them in their hundreds. Also qualifies as Fan Disservice, because he's horrifically scarred by the fire.
  • God-Emperor: Nero's goal is to become the immortal god-emperor of Rome and "carve my name across the bones of this Earth".
  • Golem: A golem in the form of a Rock Monster shows up when Nero sends Aquila to kill Peter, priest of the carpenter god Jesus Christ. We know it's a golem because it was sent by Eleazar, priest of the desert god Jehovah.
  • God Is Displeased: Boudiccae achieves great successes against the Roman invaders thanks to the protection of the local gods. However, once she organizes reprisals against the Briton population she feels the gods leave her, leading to her defeat by Aquila. She asks of him that when he inevitably turns against the Roman emperor, that he should die hearing her name, a request Aquila agrees to (and does so at the end of the comic).
  • Gruesome Goat: The Phrygian god Attis, traditionally depicted as a handsome youth with curly hair, appears as a massive muscular goat-man with a necklace of skulls. Presumably, this is to make him look less human, and therefore more acceptable for Aquila to kill.
  • Healing Factor: Aquila and the rest of his "brothers" who serve The Devourer can recover from wounds that would kill any normal man, but it does take some time for them to heal (varying from anything to a few hours to several days depending on the severity).
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Peter the Apostle, servant of the 'carpenter God', requests Aquila crucify him upside down to make him a martyr to the fledgling Christian movement, even after Aquila means to free him from Nero's prison.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Locusta, Nero's wife, and presumably a counterpart to Poppaea Sabina, is a witch, as opposed to a normal Roman woman. Sporus, traditionally Nero's Greek eunuch and bedslave, is depicted as a gigantic fat gladiator who brutally attacks Aquila to buy time for his master to kill himself. He's still a eunuch, though.
  • Historical Domain Character: Queen Boudica and Emperor Nero appear as major characters.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Some extremely British expressions (Jesus wept, bollocks to that) are replaced with more period-appropriate versions (Jovus wept, Castor and Pollux to that)
  • Karmic Death: Locusta violates the sanctity of Vesta's temple to revive the dead as unholy abominations. She ends up entombed alive, with the demonic babies she'd revived closing in on her.
  • Kill the God: Several gods are killed throughout the comic, including the guardian deity of Rome, who happens to be a giant wolf bitch living in the sewers beneath the capital of the world.
  • Last Request: Before Aquila kills Queen Boudicca because of her having put entire Roman towns in Britain to the sword to have her own revenge, she asks him to send her regards if he ever kills a Roman emperor. He ends up honoring her wish.
  • Lovable Coward: Felix, Aquila's sidekick.
  • Love Potion: Locusta the witch controls her lover Emperor Nero through a love potion that she's convinced him will boost his powers.
  • Noble Wolf: The guardian spirit of Rome is, of course, a wolf. She's actually a goddess who once took the form of a wolf bitch the size of Fenrir to watch over Romulus and Remus before the former of the two brothers slayed the other and began the city's martial era. She resides in the sewers of the city Beneath the Earth with her followers.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Aquila, the main character's gladiator name, is just Latin for "eagle". His 'brother', another warrior who serves the same hungry goddess, is known simply as The Spartan from his area of origin, and says most of their kind have little use for fixed names.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Stygian Leeches, Roman underworld demons that attack the Christians hiding in a Roman cemetery.
  • Play-Along Prisoner: One of the gifts bestowed on Aquila by the evil goddess that resurrected him is that no lock or chain can hold or bind him for longer than he wishes. When he's first introduced having been chained up by an old man, he calmly listens to the man explaining his reasons for wanting revenge before casting off his chains and killing him.
  • Premortem One Liner: Just as Aquila stabs Nero through the throat, he fulfills his earlier promise:
    Aquila: Queen Boudicca of the Iceni wishes you to know her name at this moment, sire.
  • Prophecies Are Always Right: Boudicca is given a vision that the Britons will one day free themselves and rule an Empire greater even than the Roman one, while Locusta foresees that there will be a new god taking power in Rome, although she thinks it will be Nero. Triscus also foresees that Pompeii won't be a good place to be in a while.
  • The Queen's Latin: Averted for the most part, since the majority of Roman characters are not given phonetic accents, apart from Felix, the Lovable Rogue, who speaks like a Cockney.
  • Rain of Blood: During the revolt in Rome against Nero's misrule, Aquila and Felix try to find their ways through the sewers as the blood spilled from fights between the citizens and Nero's praetorians rains down on them.
  • Restraining Bolt: Felix gets a snake tattoo put on his neck by Boudicca that chokes him whenever he runs away or disobeys Aquila. The curse was so strong the tattoo lasted after her death, and Felix believes it brought him bad luck ever since.
  • Revenge: Queen Boudicca's motive for her war against the Romans is to avenge her daughters being raped by Roman soldiers and her own person flogged in the square on the orders of Britain's governor. However, she takes her vengeance on the people of Londinium so far that she becomes one of Aquila's targets.
  • Scared of What's Behind You: At one point, Felix and Triscus are cornered by Nero's guards, when Felix boldly pulls out his sword and starts threatening to kill those soldiers. They start running and he mocks them as they leave... then he turns around to see Aquila has showed up.
  • Scary Black Man: Aquila is a giant from Nubia who is so frightening that even his fellow servants of the Devourer fear him (according to the Spartan, this is why he's never met another up until now).
  • Shock and Awe: The guardian of Jupiter's temple is a lightning-spawning gladiator.
  • Slave Liberation: Aquila was part of Spartacus' rebellion, and was among those crucified when they were defeated. He begged for any god to help him while on the cross... and the Devourer answered.
  • Soul Eating: Aquila serves Ammit The Devourer, an Eldritch Abomination which feeds on human souls tainted by wickedness.
  • Twisting the Prophecy: Locusta's prophecy predicts that a new god will rise in to power in Rome, something the tyranical emperor Nero takes to mean himself, his goal to become an immortal God-Emperor and "carve my name across the bones of this Earth". Ficus tries to stop the prophecy coming to pass, before residing that there is no way to prevent it. However, he realises the Prophecy doesn't specify it has to be Nero, and instead engineers it so its the benevolent carpenter god worshiped by that new religious group with a thing for fish.
  • Undead Child: Locusta resurrects a swarm of zombie babies to serve as her demonic assassins. She's later Buried Alive in a sewer full of them.
  • Walking the Earth: Aquila and his "brothers and sisters" are cursed to walk the earth, hunting down the wicked to send their souls to their godly mistress The Devourer.