Thursday, 2 October 2008

‘Slaine – The Horned God’ – Pat Mills and Simon Bisley (Rebellion)


I borrowed this collection, off a mate, way back in 1992 and read it over the summer while I was waiting for my GCSE results to come out. ‘Slaine: The Horned God’ holds fond memories for me (of one of those ‘classic’ summers of beautiful weather and nothing to do but read) and all the while that I’ve been reading the preceding books it’s been in the knowledge that I’ve been approaching something very cool indeed...

Slaine is your stereotypical loud and drunken barbarian who is out for a fight and lots of gold, if he can’t have both then he’ll settle for a fight. He avoids falling into self parody through the rich vein of Celtic mythology that runs through the series and gives it a life all of it’s own (quite separate from other barbarian tales). Up until now, Slaine has spent most of his time making the long journey back home, from exile, to his tribe. Things are about to take a dramatic turn though as war is brewing to the north...
Led by the evil Lord Weird Slough Feg, the Drunes (like Druids but out to destroy the land instead of nurture it) are hell bent on saving everyone from the misery and pain of life... by killing them. The Fomorian sea devils don’t share the same creed but have never turned away from an opportunity to butcher humans. The only chance for the tribes of Tir-Nan-Og to survive is to unite under the balance of a High King. You can guess who that is...
Not only must Slaine unite his people against the Drune threat but he will also find out secrets about the Earth Goddess that his own Druids didn’t want him to know...

Before I even start talking about the story itself, have a look at the cover artwork. Good isn’t it? Here’s the thing, the whole book is like that and it’s absolutely gorgeous to read. It’s full of colour and detail with lots going on and all of it adding to the story. I particularly like the way that there’s a sense of pre-history and a sense of other-worldly fantasy going on at the same time which really gives the work it’s own identity. Top work by Simon Bisley...

The story itself is a form of the ‘quest’ tale with powerful objects that must be found if an evil lord will ever be defeated. I’m cool with this sort of story so long as it isn’t too linear in its plot, ‘The Horned God’ neatly sidesteps this trap with plenty of intrigue and dead ends that set our heroes back so they have to start again. The final battle is suitably climatic although I was left wondering whether Pat Mills ducked out of things a little bit by having an Ukko from the future narrate parts of the battle in a ‘and then Slaine won...’ kind of way. Is that cheating? I think so...

‘The Horned God’ also sets itself up as something a little different, from the rest, by looking at the Celtic religious themes that underpin the book and turning them on their head just a little. There’s a little bit of feminism to be found here with the revelation that the Druids weren’t necessarily where all the power originally came from... The revelation might not be that much of a surprise but it does get you thinking...

Out of all the ‘Slaine’ collections that I have read so far ‘The Horned God’ is the stand out moment in the overall story. Come for the story, stay for the lovely artwork!

Nine and a Half out of Ten

2 comments:

Dave said...

Ahh I'm so jealous! We haven't had any Slaine, Dredd, or 2000AD here in SA for at least 10 years!

Hagelrat said...

I love how many times at the moment I am coming across a new blog or something and spotting that wonderlands badge tucked in somewhere. :)