Thursday, 20 July 2017

SLAINE: Warriors Dawn

 In our first real posting, Chris McAuley,  a relative newcomer to 2000 AD takes a fresh look at an old favourite.


Mike McMahon cover to the Warrior's Dawn collection
2000AD has played host to many characters over the last forty years, most of them have been influenced by various strands of sci-fi – but there was one individual – one narrative which was different and he opened up the way for fantasy to be a popular concept in the publication. 

Slaine was a mixture of homage to Robert E Howard’s Conan Series and the Celtic mythologies surrounding Cuchulainn, who himself was a figure based in universal myth, his stories bearing a striking resemblance to Hercules and a legendary figure in Persian mythology Rostam.

It was on this reoccurring pattern of stories that Pat Mills and Angela Kincaid based a compelling and brutal series of stories which now resemble an epic of Wagnerian proportions with protagonists with rich backstories and memorable antagonists who defy space and time to fight our hero in repeated stages of conflict. But where did it all begin?

It begins in the heat of Battle with Slaine, his back to the reader, readying his axe against a slavering giant dinosaur-like reptilian beast, a beast called a Time Monster. Immediately we are invested in the following panels which show how the barbarian defeats the beast – not by utilising his axe but by insight and ingenuity. He does so not to protect his village, not for sport or to test his strength in battle – but for money.

We are introduced to Ukko, a dwarf who has a lust for life, seen by most as loathsome, but I see him as a bon vivant, a character who has large appetites for money, women and beer! Over the course of the story, Slaine falls in love with Niamh, who is betrothed to the tribal King, this romantic interlude is cut short and Slaine is banished to wander the lands of Tir Na Nog to find his fortune amongst the witchkings and monsters which lurk there.

It is here that Slaine encounters a woman who is to become is greatest reoccurring enemy in the series, there’s battles with Sky Pirates and it’s an incredibly fun and enjoyable read. The artwork in this collection is illustrated by three artists, all unique in style and capturing different emphasis in the character and his environment. My favourite is Mike McMahon’s take, drawn in a fast paced style but incredibly detailed and it’s worth mentioning that it’s here we get to see the fascinating and ground breaking work of Angela Kincaid who created the character before handing on the baton of her work to the subsequent other artists.

Angela Kincaid's, credited as A Mills, splash page to the first Slaine story
It’s Kincaid’s striking artwork which shapes the character and imprints key themes in the readers consciousness and that is, I believe what makes Slaine such an enduring character.

Before finishing this review, it’s important to pay tribute to an element of the story which has been meticulously researched from Celtic myth.  It is here, where Pat Mills has outdone himself – famous for his passion for examining his subject matter, Pat brings parts of Celtic historical myth to life.
Slaine has one super power (and by that please don’t mistake him for being a ‘super hero’) he has the ability to ‘Warp Spasm’, this is the ability to distort his body into a variety of monstrous and disgusting shapes during the heat of battle.

This comes from the body-distorting properties described in the Riastrad of Cuchulainn and the term Warp Spasm comes from a translation of a legendary Irish tale, “The Cattle Raid of Cooley” otherwise known as “The Tain”, by Thomas Kinsella.

The collection, under the Title of Slaine: Warriors Dawn, is available in Amazon and at Rebellion publishing’s website. This is a truly memorable, enjoyable and fascinating series of stories which you will read greedily and not put down until it is finished. It is also immensely re-readable and will give you much pleasure long after it is initially placed on your bookshelf.

Warriors Dawn together with other Slaine collections are available direct from Rebellion or from your local comic shop.

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