The 2000 AD favourite and all-round Celtic bruiser has stumbled upon more underdogs in need of a champion. Lured to the isle of Monadh, Slaine becomes the leader of a rebellion against a distinctly out of place (unless you know your late Medieval pseudo-history) Trojan occupation force.
21st century Slaine is looking decidedly thoughtful here. Like when a band matures after having conquered their difficult second album and feel they’re ready to experiment with serious and adult-looking facial hair, Slaine sports a fairly hipsterish beard (as opposed to his clean-shaven Celtic punk upstart look of his early progs) and seems to face almost as many spiritual as physical existential threats.
The artwork, as ever, is beautiful. Veering between smudgy watercolours and scratchy pen and ink (the latter particularly effective for the super creepy Gododin and his Slough cronies), it’s also detailed and realistic enough to make Slaine’s Warp Spasm (which can occasionally look like the artist has just gone “oh, fuck it” and started drawing lines at random) look like an extremely expensive Jim Henson model (which is attempting to replicate a cartoonist’s rendering of the expression “oh, fuck it” in human skin).
As mentioned, the design on the villains is genuinely creepy, and the empty-masked Trojan warriors also look fantastic, even down to the wiggly sigil on their shields. The only problem with all the pretty in the art is that the violence (which there is plenty of) is a bit too samey. Anything too realistic would be grim, obviously, but the constant repetition of heads flying off and fountains of fondant pink blood gushing from otherwise intact bodies does sort of diminishes Slaine’s reputation for violence if he can’t deliver it in any more imaginative way then neat decapitations and beheadings.
There is an issue, too, with the fact that this is presumably compiled from 2000 AD strips. Accordingly, you have multiple cliffhangers that are instantly resolved, whether you always realised it was a cliffhanger or not, as well as constant repetition of Slaine’s wearisome catchphrase (he’s eminently severe in the work of violence, don’t you know?) presumably in case any readers of 2000 AD sued for having gone an entire issue without hearing it.
But these are minor gripes. The latest Slaine does what is demanded of it very well; creepy villains, trippy theophilosophical goings-on in the background, and a heroic barbarian hero who is entirely right and moral in his brutal murder of, well, frankly we lost count of how many people.
All in all, a pretty solid continuation of the Slaine saga.
SLAINE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES BOOK TWO: PRIMORDIAL / WRITER: PAT MILLS / ARTIST: SIMON DAVIS / PUBLISHER: 2000 AD / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 14TH