Sunday, 27 January 2013

Slaine: Books of Invasions Vols 1-3. A quick review of a blast from the past.

2000AD was a staple of my teenage years. I know I'm not alone when I say that. For me it went right alongside the wargaming, the novels and the hobbying. I also know I'm not alone when I say that. After a while my comic reading and collecting grew to a wider experience. DC's The Question, The Dark Knight Returns...and further ...  Stray Toasters (remember that anyone?), 'Nam ,Elektra,and so on - until we get to the trade paperbacks you can read about elsewhere on this blog.

But somewhere along the way 2000AD got left behind. I still have hundreds of the beggars in a box in a cupboard. And that's a real shame because one of my favourite characters is Slaine the King / warrior / berserker and his suffering (insufferable) companion Ukko the dwarf. I loved the work of McMahon, Fabry, Bisley et al. I relished the blood thirsty extravagance of it all. The humour, the darkness, the cultural richness.

That's why I'm at this point. I'm trying to catch up with Slaine and his progress over 'the missing years'. Here are a few thoughts then, about Slaine :Books of Invasions by Pat Mills and Clint Langley. 

The Formorian sea daemons have invaded the Land of the Young and Slaine (as so often, against the advice of his council) and Niamh, his wife, fight back against the evil of Moloch and later, Lord Odacon. Things don't go well, lives are destroyed and desperate measures taken. Even the Earth Goddess Danu's protection appears to require peculiar sacrifices to be made. Leaping through the mud and blood, as always, but without Ukko, Slaine slices left and dices right,  proclaiming 'Kiss my axe!' as he wades in a sea of slaughter.

Not much had changed then. 

This was, throughout, a hugely enjoyable read. I can't quite say if my feelings about these stories were coloured by a sense of nostalgia, all I can say is that it felt good to be back. in the land of Tir Nan Og. The stories - given their episodic format - were neatly told, narratively well paced and balanced between destruction and the journey Slaine has to take. This was how I remembered him.

 It's not an easy journey of course. Along the way he forms alliances with the Scota (an Atlantean tribe), he has to survive challenges form Danu and defeat daemons of might and power, axe and spear in hand. And there is sorrow.

In the last volume the story is completed with a full scale battle, a city under seige and, as an epilogue,  there is the addition of  a return to Ukko, where Slaine finds his son and embarks on a Sherlock Holmes-like investigation into strange goings on among the even stranger denizens of The Carnival.

The final (or most important) and most stunning feature of these volumes is the artwork. It is spectacular in so many ways. Langley uses a mixture of fully painted artwork and digitally manipulated images to create something truly  ... visceral. It has power, sensuality, horror and, in places, beauty. The fire burns. The blood splatters and gushes. The darkness engulfs. This is the point. It's a perfect match for this world of Pat Mills' imagination, which itself 'borrows' from ancient Celtic myths and legends - deliberately so.

Sit down. kick back. Grab a beer. Give yourself time to read these - your eyes will want linger over the details, the colours, the landscapes, the characters (don't read it in dim light, you'll miss bits!) - you won't be stop yourself from exploring the 'widescreen' style pages, inch by astonishing, luxurious, inch.


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