Review by Jamie McNeil
As iconic as Sláine is, there was a time when the character almost disappeared from the pages of British comic 2000AD for good. Ironically it was in the year 2000 that then editorial team decided that the Celtic warrior needed to move with the times. It failed with neither creator/writer Pat Mills nor readers very happy with the end result, so not down to the artist nor Mills himself. What it demonstrates is how difficult it is to bring Celtic mythology to life, as it’s so different from the lineal structure of Greek and Scandinavian myths. That Mills managed to do it and make fantasy character Sláine one of the premier attractions of a science fiction comic proves that for everyone who “gets it”, there are always other people who don’t. Thankfully there were people who did still get it and wanted Sláine to return, artist Clint Langley one of them. Having already worked with Pat Mills on Sláine: Lord of Misrule and other projects (see ABC Warriors), he understood the writer’s vision for the character and in 2003 the series returned in a six part epic with Langley illustrating.
The Books of Invasions are gathered in three volumes with two “books” per volume, Volume 1 containing ‘Moloch’ and ‘Golamh’. They tell the story of how the Fomorians, old enemies of the Tribes of Eriu, have returned to claim vengeance on Sláine for an incident told in Lord of the Beasts. Alongside their King Balor of the One Eye is the ruthless new commander Moloch of the Many Swords, a savage piece of work who inflicts terrible personal tragedy on Sláine. Even as our Celtic hero swears revenge he discovers a new threat to his people from both the evolving Fomorians and a lost Atlantean colony who have returned to Ireland to claim their birthright.
Clint Langley has come a long way since his first gig drawing Sláine, now using digital manipulation alongside photo-realistic paintings. The result is spectacular, from burial mounds filled with flowers to a colossal throne surrounded by a fiery lake. Warriors both Fomor and human line up for battles (of which there are many!) as enemies gouge, slash and inflict atrocities on each other. While Langley’s visuals are impressive, with all his characteristic emotional energy, there are limitations. Initially the photo-realism and use of models renders the cast stiff and posed in places, most noticeable in ‘Moloch’ though improving rapidly. On another level the art is so visceral and realistic that it intensifies the experience. Langley doesn’t hold back from depicting the trauma and all other associated sins of war with some scenarios – including rape – very disturbing. The positive is that Langley has no problems with letting his imagination interpret Mills’ use of Babylonian accounts of sea creatures or the Celtic legends of Gael and Scota, the founders of the Gaelic peoples. The result is The Books of Invasion both feeling and looking magnificently Celtic. That the stories are concise and flow seamlessly into each other makes a great difference to the quality of the narrative, eliminating that hiccup effect that often hampers Sláine stories.
It’s a great return to form for Sláine and with those little problems in the art style ironed out, the saga takes off in The Books of Invasion Volume 2.