Review: Sláine – The Grail War / Author: Pat Mills / Artist: Nick Percival, Steve Tappin / Publisher : Rebellion / Release Date: April 11th
2000AD standby Sláine has always been a bit of cultural mishmash. Part Conan the Barbarian pastiche and mostly classic 2000AD nuttiness, the Irish barbarian hero and his pet dwarf have been rampaging across the pages of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic for decades now. On the face of it, Sláine appears to be a series of retellings of Irish and Western European myths with a slight twist. However, fans of the series will tell you that Sláine only has the most passing resemblance to anything even approaching history or even reality. It seems 2000AD’s approach to Irish mythology is closer in spirit to Marvel’s approach to Norse myth than it has to do with anything you could find in a history book. Or to put it another way, Sláine: The Grail War only borrows the names and scenes from history, and should not be taken in anyway seriously.
This particular book features a version of William Wallace who seems to be based on the movie Braveheart and a version of crusader Simon DeMontford who seems to have sprung fully formed from author Pat Mill’s fever dreams rather than anything approaching a historic text. The rough premise of Sláine: The Grail War is that the spiky-haired barbarian hero has been sent through time to do the will of the Earth Goddess, which usually means getting stuck into big fights against impossible odds. The tale is pretty inconsistent in its theme; at one point you feel that the author is trying to make a serious point, only to suddenly reverse everything and fall about laughing instead. Though you could argue that this sort of duality is exactly what Sláine is all about, it’s still annoying. It isn’t helped that one of the key plot twists is handled rather immaturely. 2000AD is famous for its progressive and forward-thinking approach to storytelling and it’s sad to see one of their more iconic characters be used as a platform for a juvenile approach to relationship issues.
The art is consistently gorgeous, both Nick Percival and Steve Tappin delivering epic visuals. The book is topped off with an old short story from the 2000AD Annual for 1985, and features Belardinelli’s trademark crazy art style, which contrasts starkly against the rest of the book as it’s more messy and dynamic than the previous pages. Overall Sláine: The Grail War is worth the time, but you really do need to turn your brain off, especially if you have an interest in history. If you go into it looking for outrageous fantasy action, nice art and big bold lies, you will have a lot of fun.