This week the new Caligula series from Avatar Press hit store shelves with issue #1 now available.  Since this is a new series we will take a look at it here in a full article, then follow the story in Bullet Reviews as each new issue is released.  Avatar has been hyping this new series for a while now, so I decided to pick up an issue and give it a spin.  Apparently many others had this same plan in mind, as I scored the last issue in my local shop after arriving only two hours after it opened.  The Caligula story is written by excellent horror writer and Eisner Award winner, David Lapham, who wrote Crossed: Family Values.  The fully-painted artwork is done by German Nobile and has a very elegant, beautiful, and classic feel to it.

The Caligula comic is based on the infamous Roman emperor best known for indulging his debauched excesses.  The story is told by a rural olive farmer named Junius.  Caligula is viewed as a god, by himself and the citizens of Rome.  Early in this first issue, Junius’ family farm is visited by Caligula and his guards while Junius is away.  His innocent family and faithful house servants are defiled and murdered (and not necessarily in that order) by Caligula and his men to satisfy a seemingly insatiable lust for violence.  Upon returning to this gruesome scene, Junius finds his dead loved ones and a single survivor who tells the tale of what has transpired with his final words.  A notice nailed to the door claims that the farm is abandoned and is therefore now the property of the Caligula regime.  Junius vows revenge before cleansing the farm with fire and setting off for Rome.

Upon arrival to the capitol Junius is awe-struck by the size of Rome and sickened by the widespread corruption and depravity that seems to have infiltrated every vestige of day to day life.  He patiently observes and plans until the time for revenge is at hand.  Improvising and executing his plan, he finds himself face to face with the man he has sought, but it seems that there may be more to Caligula than Junius, or indeed we the readers, may have bargained for.  I think a quote directly from the pages of this story sums up this first issue best:  “This is a thing of pure monstrosity and madness.  This is the death of Rome.  It has a name.  Caligula.  Caligula must die.”

I enjoyed this initial installment very much.  The art is a breath of fresh air, and its beauty provides a nice contrast to the horrors that are taking place on the page.  Despite some early reports, there is plenty of gore and depravity to be found in this book.  Just because a few scenes are not portrayed directly does not lessen the impact of imagining what is taking place just out of view.  This is a mature and adult work, with violence, nudity, and extreme adult situations, and probably not for the squeamish.  After hearing the story discussed at an Avatar Press panel at a convention, I have a good idea of the direction this story is headed and I am very glad to be on board.  Like I said earlier, be sure to check out future Bullet Reviews to keep abreast of happenings in this series or better yet, get down to your local comic shop, pick up Caligula #1 and get in on the ground floor!