Saltire is a fantasy saga featuring the eponymous protector of Scotland, a blue-skinned immortal warrior summoned via the Stone of Destiny who defends the nation from encroaching threats.
Previous instalments have only shown characters at a time of crisis, the action kicking off almost as soon as the comic begins and battle being joined swiftly after. Now we see some of the day-to-day lives of the Guardians, Saltire’s mortal allies with inherited mantles of magical power who each oversee a region of the country. As their lives’ purpose is reduced to awaiting a call to arms that might never come, what was once a prized honour has become an obligation with faded significance. Although imbued with otherworldly strength they are still human, with all the associated fallibilities and frustrated ambitions that plague all people, be they everyday or everlasting. Even Saltire himself, undying and unyielding against the changing nation, contemplates a time when he will no longer be needed.
A couple of quick bursts of action intersperse the drama, but for the most part, the story is a far more subdued tale and one focused more on the people involved rather than combat and unearthly forces. However, a new threat is arising in the form of Viking berserkers setting their sights across the North Sea, the fertile lands proving too tempting a target to ignore, while also being spurred on by the prophecy of an ancient and dying soothsayer, whose identity may soon be revealed to be someone a little familiar.
The artwork is more akin to traditional comic book stylings than the effervescent flare of Invasion or the shadowed gore of Annihilation, lending a more standard look that nevertheless fits the fantasy-historical tone. The comic’s full-colour A4 pages are practically a visual invocation of the story’s intended epic nature, as though the scale of the story is too much to be contained by standard sized pages.
The multi-issue arc is a new direction for the series, the previous books each containing a full and distinct story (even the expressly two-part Annihilation was a pair of separate tales), and this first of six doesn’t quite deliver the instant excitement that readers might expect, but given how it ends it’s fairly safe to assume that things will speed up before too much longer.
SALTIRE: LEGEND ETERNAL #1 / AUTHOR: JOHN FERGUSON / ARTIST: LYDIA PRAAMSMA, KASEY SCHIAVONE / PUBLISHER: DIAMONDSTEEL COMICS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW