Monday, August 9, 2010

Slaine: Demon Killer

What I try to do with reviews at this Bookshelf blog is keep it simple and spoiler-free, and let you know whether I'd recommend you pick up a copy of what I just read. Seems to work okay. This time, a brief review of Slaine: Demon Killer (Rebellion, 2010)

With their fifth volume in the collected adventures of Slaine, Rebellion has entered the long-running strip's somewhat questionable period. There's usually something worth looking at in the series, and happily, "Demon Killer" and its assorted stories have aged much better than I remember them. It helps that Pat Mills' scripts were tackled by some tremendously good artists, but this is still the period where the rot began, and it's hard to approach them without knowing that subsequent episodes would be notably poorer.

The previous four volumes saw Slaine as a wandering hero, returning to his tribe in time to become its leader, and unite all of the Celtic tribes as their High King in opposition to an army of demons and beasts. The fourth book, "The Horned God," could well have been an excellent finale, but Mills found many more stories to tell and Slaine returned after about two years' break.

In "Demon Killer," a storyline painted by Glenn Fabry (42 pages) and by Dermot Power (54), Slaine reaches the end of his seven-year reign as High King and is ceremonially put to death, only to have the Earth's goddess Danu resurrect him for a mission in her land's future, defending Britain from Roman invaders. The story's peppered with very memorable moments, most stunningly its bleak tone towards the end when Slaine realizes he has underestimated the sort of atrocities that Romans would be willing to exact upon the native Britons.

The artwork is gorgeous, and the story in which Slaine and his wife Niamh are forced to find some compromise in their squabbling marriage by being tied to a tree is really funny. Best of all is a terrific scene in which Slaine first arrives in Roman-occupied Britain and is racking up a body count within sixty seconds.

All in all, it's quite a good package of twenty episodes, plus some pin-ups and a very neat bonus: a David Lloyd-illustrated role-playing game strip from the pages of Diceman. Sadly, the reprint of this game is missing a page, making it a little difficult to play, but I think of it as just a bonus and not essential. That's a good way to think of the book, really. It's good, but not outstanding, and the series' new time-traveling format really robbed Slaine of its charm. Recommended for completists, only.

No comments: