Review by Jamie McNeil
When it comes to choosing the best Sláine story The Horned God almost always tops the list. Readers of magazine ComicScene voted it the best 2000AD story ever! Let’s give Pat Mills and Simon Bisley their due for what they achieved, yet allow us to play the Devil’s Advocate and present The Treasures of Britain as a close contender. Terrific artwork from both Dermot Power and Steve Tappin along with superb writing from one Patrick Mills makes for a grand tale, even one of Slaine’s best.
When Arthur the King and his son Mordred fall in mortal combat against each other on Camlan Field, darkness falls over Brittania. To save it and restore balance the legendary 13 Treasures of Britain must be found. In order to do this the arch wizard Merlin and the Sorceress Morgaine La Fee must put aside their differences to call on the Great Dragon of Britain for a warrior able to find and restore the treasures. As the Saxons march across the land spilling blood and spreading chaos, Merlin and Morgaine will cast a Spell of Merging to summon a new Horned God to replace the fallen Arthur and Mordred. From the mists of time will march a man they call Gwalchmai, the Green Knight. In another time and place he is the High King, the Warrior of the Earth Goddess Danu, known as Sláine and he comes to face enemies new and ancient. He will die or succeed, piling the bodies of his foes high around him and he will not think it too many.
Treasures of Britain has the most innovative opening scenario Pat Mills has scripted for Sláine, the body of the plot itself loaded with clever devices that enrich it including the essential elements of funny and touching. One scenario relies on Sláine’s dwarf companion Ukko being the only one who can touch and retrieve a particular treasure, a tale that injects hilarity into traditionally serious source material yet still facilitates an aura of mystery around the Arthurian legends. It’s a strong tale overall, blending narrative with Celtic myth that vitalises it with a sense of grandeur. The only nit to pick is that the conclusion feels rushed when there is potential for further exploration.
Artistically Power adds a sense of the epic, with the action fluid and dynamic, his choice of earthy colours and how they are used adding an authentic fantasy feel. His knack for showing multiple perspectives from different angles drives the story because you feel the human emotion. Tappin cartoons his way through ‘The Cloak of Fear’ (originally called ‘Ukko’s Tale’) as Ukko weaves a tale both horrific and funny. Written in rhyme, it is weirdly beautiful with a happy anarchy Tappin delights in illustrating.
Several reasons combine to ensure The Treasures of Britain stands as one of Sláine’s best stories. It’s nicely paced, a concise length making it easier to read. The art is fabulous and that Mills draws from multiple novels and films about Arthur gives it a familiar yet still exciting flavour. It’s proudly the best of Sláine from the 1990s period, and later Sláine artist Simon Davis cites Power’s art here as an inspiration for his own run. There is no doubt this should be the other Sláine book you have to own.
Back in 1997 the publishers Hamlyn printed Treasures of Britain, later collecting it with other material as Warrior Beyond Time. Both can still be found online in good condition and at affordable prices for collectors. Next is The Grail War.