Review by Jamie McNeil
When the Cythron were defeated long ago the Archon lords, great elemental guardians, were set as watchmen to ensure that they never overstepped their boundaries. They could experiment with the humans, even alter them, but there were limits. Slough Gododin has overstepped those limits and now the Archon Yaldabaoth has now intervened. The problem, in his archaic mind, has always been fickle weak humanity, so he sees one solution: crush them all back to dust, including Sláine and Sinead. Even with his own destruction at hand, Gododin refuses to relent in his personal crusade against Sláine. Even if he survives the Archon, can the Celtic warrior survive the psychological onslaught?
Simon Davis’ opening scenes of the Archons, all craggy and imposing, are quite something. Even though the volume of slate grey wash desensitises the reader, the sight of them marching generates a growing sense of dread. Davis’ attention to detail is tremendous, but the Archons and the strange gray bodies of the Drune Lords make it hard to tell them apart. The result is cluttered pages so the visuals are better when he strips it back.
Scenes of Sláine and Sinead battered and bloody or crossing a stone causeway have greater dramatic effect, the style simpler yet still stunning and more effective in terms of storytelling. Davis art also stands out when rendering purer fantasy creatures like giants and mermaids. Another scenario where Sinead channels the earth goddess Danu is very good and clearly shows the influence former Sláine artist Simon Bisley had on a young Davis.
Throughout The Brutania Chronicles writer/creator Pat Mills’ exploration of Sláine’s psyche and the influence of his parents has been far more interesting than the plot itself. The latter is redolent of the early Sláine stories, but Sláine struggling to come to terms with the tragedy caused by his flawed parents is what keeps you invested in the saga. Throughout his 38 year history Sláine has rarely shown vulnerability, the moments countable on one hand. Parental influence- positive, negative or absent- and its lasting effects is such a primal idea, connecting with everyone on some level. Each reader will respond differently, to a greater or lesser degree, but they will respond. These flashbacks and re-origin stories (sample) told in softer tones are better told and illustrated than anything else in the series, rescuing the entirety of Brutania in the process.
As a Sláine saga The Brutania Chronicles are fine, readable and entertaining yet saved by the character development. If all four books were published as one instead of individually, it would likely read better and hide the flaws. By the conclusion the ground has been prepped for new Sláine adventures, even introducing a new enemy. While 2000AD’s press is yet to release news, rumour has it that a new volume titled Sláine: Dragontamer should hit bookshelves by September 2021.