For UK fans of a certain, um, ‘vintage’, ‘Slaine’, alongside ‘Judge Dredd’, ‘Rogue Trooper’ and the ‘ABC Warriors’ is one of the classic ‘2000AD’ characters. Bringing axes, monsters and muscles to the comic’s usual SF/post-apocalyptic stories, ‘Slaine’ also referenced Celtic legends, giving a mythological feel to all the bloodshed.
Even for the eternally teen-age ‘2000AD’, there is a lot of blood in the ‘Slaine’ strips. Fights are detailed with lovingly graphic gore and Slaine’s ‘warp spasms’ are always charmingly grotesque, though one scene of a woman exploding may be a touch too far for some.
But let’s go back a step. For those who may only vaguely know the name, ‘Slaine’ first appeared in 1983 and has periodically featured in the comic’s pages ever since. He’s a brooding ‘hero’, thrust into adulthood and the role of reluctant king, whose worship of the Earth Goddess allows him to mutate into an effectively unkillable monster in combat. What sets the Slaine stories apart from other ‘2000AD’ fantasies is its melancholic feel and the recurring themes of responsibility and the passing of time, with Slaine visibly evolving over the years.
The thing is, if any of that was news to you’ then you’re not already a fan of ‘Slaine’ and this book will be of absolutely no interest to you. It’s a celebration of 30 years of stories, looking at the writers and artists who produced them, plus reproductions of every ‘Slaine’ cover and other miscellanies. The book is unashamedly aimed at ‘Slaine’ fans, using a new story to reference the old classics, all set up by an enemy meddling with time and forcing Slaine to revisit his past. This clever set-up provides facts and nostalgia for those who remember the original stories and allows the new story to comment on and call back to events you may only vaguely remember.
In this book, ‘Slaine: The Book Of Scars’, you get the following stories, all written by Pat Mills: Clint Langley with ‘The Bride Of Crom’, Mick McMahon with ‘Sky Chariots’ and Glenn Fabry with ‘Elswhere’, all in black and white but with strikingly different art styles. Then Simon Bisley revisits ‘The Horned God’ and, no, Bisley’s art style hasn’t mellowed over the years. Finally, Langley again, with ‘Moloch’, which, unlike ‘Bride Of Crom’, this story uses the hyper-rendered art style I associate with Langley. After that, the bulk of the book is taken up with the ‘Slaine 2000AD’ covers, plus snippets of commentary from the various artists involved.
While the commentary mostly consists of the artists praising each other’s work, there are some nice details tucked away to uncover. Depth aside, it’s clear that a lot of love has been lavished on this book and the bold colours leap off the page, so there’s no faulting the production values.
To wrap-up: If you’re a die-hard ‘Slaine’ fan then you’ll love this book for the commentary from the series’ key artists and the cheeky way it revisits classic stories. If, like me, you remember ‘Slaine’ from your teen years but, more as a character than for individual stories, then this book may well inspire you to pick up some of the ‘2000AD’ comichook collections. But if you’ve never read a ‘Slaine’ comic then I’m not sure that this book has anything to offer you other than spoilers for some of the classic stories.
Better to try a collection first and see if the character grabs you.
(pub: 2000AD/Rebellion, 2013. 192 page graphic novel large hardback. Price: £19.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78108-176-1)
check out website: www.2000ADonline.com