Review by Jamie McNeil
The Books of Invasions Volume 3 concludes a project that brought Pat Mills’ creation Sláine into the 21st Century with the artistic talents of Clint Langley. Like its predecessors this is a book of two halves split independently titled ‘Odacon’ and ‘Carnival’.
‘Odacon’ opens with Sláine returning from the El worlds where the Sessair have relocated. His arrival is timely as Odacon the Fomorian Swarm Lord is alive and intent on releasing his brood into human hosts. Sláine and his new allies Gael, Amergin and Fais set out after Odacon and his traitorous host Sethor but theirs is a relentless and ruthless enemy. ‘Carnival’ is an epilogue to The Books of Invasions with Sláine in Albion searching for his son. Kai is working for Ukko the dwarf who has become the ringmaster for the Circus of the Night, a carnival hosting many Celtic oddities and creatures from the fiery Crom Dubh to a family of Shoggy Beasts. Sláine’s arrival coincides with the death of a performer, evidence quickly pointing to murder. When Kai’s lover Estella is put in danger, Sláine helps his son to solve a mystery where the guilty party will do anything to keep their secrets.
Mills writes a gripping conclusion to what has been a fantastic saga. It’s funny, heart-warming, terrifying and exciting. Of all Sláine’s sagas the five “books” that make up the main story of Invasions are his most well written, consistently engaging from start to finish. ‘Carnival’ is still a fun story but also disappointing. The problem is that while it still embodies the ethereal nature of celtic tales Carnival is written as a mystery caper, a mythical whodunit, but stilted with gaping holes in the plot. It’s an intriguing idea that has all the potential to be a great story, but Mills has missed an opportunity to allow Kai to stand out on his own, sticking instead to the classic formula fans love of Sláine wielding his axe to solve problems. Since Carnival isn’t essential to the story other than to tidy up questions about Kai and Ukko you can take it or leave it though you will miss Langley’s artwork.
Langley has consistently improved over the course of the saga and demonstrates here that he doesn’t have to rely on intricate details to blow your mind. Beautiful scenes of Sláine and company hunting Fomorian brood spawn through snowy winter landscapes are fairly straightforward, but by no means easier, using both pages for glorious wordless spreads. In ‘Carnival’ Langley gets to experiment with illustrating monsters and creatures from Celtic legends. Crom Dubh is terrifying, the Chitterling enchanting. Sláine’s expressions are modelled on Langley’s own, more so than any other artist for the series, and it makes it very enjoyable to watch the many expressions crossing his face.
The Books of Invasions, from Volume 1-3, is a cracking saga that revived what was at the time a flagging series. It marks the end of one chapter for Sláine and the beginning of a new one as he goes back to the roving life in Sláine: the Wanderer.