Friday, 8 August 2008

‘Slaine: The King’ – Pat Mills (Rebellion)

When I left Slaine last time he was in another plane (a dimensional one!) waiting to do battle with an alien god from beyond the stars, guess where this graphic novel picks up from…? Er… no… The clue is in the first sentence…
Anyway, ‘Slaine: The King’ picks up where ‘Timekiller’ left off with Slaine, and his band of warriors, about to head into the temple and take on the star creature Grimnismal…

If you’ve followed Slaine’s stories in 2000AD, or even if all you know about him is what you’ve read here, then you’ll know how this one turns out. This is Slaine we’re talking about here and he’s a hero dammit! What makes it worse is that (in true D&D style) this section of the book is a ‘go into the next room, kill the monster, go into the next room…’ affair, plenty there for fans of ‘barbarian hack n’ slash’ stories but what’s there is on the repetitive side. Funnily enough, it’s the reprehensible Ukko the Dwarf who saves the day (and my experience of the book) by playing on the less noble aspects of Slaine, and his friends, and tricking/goading them into doing the right thing. Given Ukko’s track record here, this move is particularly ironic and got me interested in the story all over again.

It’s when Slaine, and his band, leave the Cythron dimension and return to the Land of the Young that things started looking up again for me. We now have the chance to get back into the main flow of the story, Slaine’s return to his tribe, which for me was what got me hooked in the first place. I’m still unsure as to how Slaine got his axe back though, having seen it destroyed in the previous collection… Maybe he just got a new one and gave it the same name, I don’t know…
The continuation of the main story arc gives the reader a chance to see the best aspects of this series all over again. The Celtic influence, apparent in ‘Warrior’s Dawn’, comes to the fore once again and gives the story a grounding that raises it above the standard ‘barbarian fare’. Slaine’s trials of kingship are a great example of this (although I’m pretty sure there was some cheating going on somewhere…) in a section that’s slow moving but, at the same time, steeped in lore and mythology. It’s also good to see Slaine develop as a character, even if it’s only a little bit. While he’s still as brash and obnoxious as ever, Slaine shows signs of some much needed maturity as he prepares to take leadership of his tribe.

We also finally get to see Slaine reunited with his tribe and the reason he was forced into exile in the first place. Not only do we get to see the one thing that can get past Slaine’s brash exterior (in a surprisingly poignant and well drawn moment) but we also see things start to move into place for the ‘Horned God’ storyline which I’m reliably informed is one of the better moments (if not the best moment) of the Slaine storyline as a whole. We also get battles, lots and lots of battles… Just the right thing to get me psyched up for the morning commute to work!

‘Slaine: The King’ is a very slow starter but I stuck with it and ended up having a great time. I think I’ll be collecting more of these!
Eight out of Ten

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