Book Review: Slaine, The Horned God by Pat Mills, Simon Bisley

Pat Mills had been writing Slaine for a while for the English comic 2000AD, and had had a mix of people drawing his character, usually in B&W. Simon Bisley comes along in the late 80s, and changes the game, not only for artists, but publishers and readers.

Some of the drawings in earlier strips were crude and not very attractive (Mike McMahon’s, left, is an example of a style I dont care for much). However, Bisley’s paintings (and they are painted rather than coloured line drawings) are superb, so that even as an 18 year old, I appreciated their beauty.

In 2017, 2000AD released multiple “ultimate collections”. Slaine was released as #1, since even they recognised the significance in what they had produced.

Anyway this review is of the 200AD ultimate collection of Slaine the horned God released in 2017.

Part of what attracted me to Slaine in the first was the heavy use of Irish Mythology, De Danaan and Tir Na Nog in particular. This is a Mills Script option. What also attracted me was Bisley’s colour and image rendering, which moved from McMahon’s B&W line images to Bisley’s Colour paintings.

The 2017 collection has the entire collection of Mills/Bisley. Written many years later by the Royal Parasite (the dwarf Ukko, under the guidance of Nest) this tells the story of Slaine,  having been kicked out of his clan as a teenager (after an affair with the King’s wife Niamh), trying to unite the multiple armies of Irish men  under the one true goddess, whilst giving up his need to be the dominant, misogynistic man.  All this to defeat their enemies The Lord Weird Slough Feg and the Fomorians.

He has to unite the other tribes together, in order to get access to their magical gifts from the goddess, such as the neverending Cauldron of plenty, who can feed the hungry, and restore the dead to some form of life. In doing so, he becomes The High King (the king above all Kings), which generates hostility within the tribes, and becoming a new incarnation of the Horned God Carnun. The large battle at the end, which includes Slaine’s trademark “battle warp” (and the catchphrase “Slaine killed hundreds of his enemies, he didn’t think it too many”).

By the end, a capricious goddess Danu – who had warned Slaine of her changing nature – has made sure that Tir Na nOg is flooded to the point of disappearance, and the tribes have been scattered to other parts of the island. Peace reigns – until the next story!

It’s only with the “The Book of Scars” – the new story for the 30th anniversary (with images from artists such as Glen Fabrey and Clint Langley have images (e.g. the below)) come close to what was done for Horned God, and I think it is a much under appreciated

 

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Book Review: Incredible Hulk: Dogs of War by Paul Jenkins, Ron Garney

The Hulk has been hounded by armies before. But this time it seems more personal than usual. General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross blames the Hulk for his daughter’s death, and his colleague, General Ryker, has decided the time has come to bring him down for good. The Hulk doesn’t necessarily disagree with Ross, since his gamma-irradiated body caused the radiation poisoning that killed his wife, Betty. The stage is set for a battle the likes of which have not been seen before. Ross brings everything in the army’s arsenal to bear in this war. The Hulk must fend off mutated soldiers, radiation-injected hounds and even tries to turn the Hulk’s own body against him. It’s a battle for the ages, but not without a price being extracted from both Ryker and the Hulk. The aftermath may leave the army poorer for the experience, but it also leaves the Hulk and his Bruce Banner alter-ego in less than stellar shape.

Hardback in the Marvel series, picked up from my local Comic Book Store.

The book includes the two part Snake Eyes as a precursor to the full 9 issue “Dogs of War” storyline.  It centres on Banner having both lost his wife Betty, as well as finding out he has Lou Gehrig’s disease. He is dying and doesn’t have anything left in the world to live for. Continue reading

Book Review: Cinnamon by Neil Gaiman, Divya Srinivasan

A talking tiger is the only one who may be able to get a princess to speak in this beautiful picture book set in a mythic India by Newbery Medal-winning and New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman, illustrated in bold colors by Divya Srinivasan.

Previously available only as an audio book, Cinnamon has never been published in print before, and Divya Srinivasan’s lush artwork brings Neil Gaiman’s text to life.

This stunning picture book will transport readers to another time and place and will delight parents and children alike.

Picked up in Foyles, Grand Central, Birmingham.

I didnt know this was coming out until I saw it displayed prominantly as I came in – I know that at least one member of staff is a Gaiman fan like me, so I wasnt surprised it was out, front and centre.

The text for this was originally released in 1995, according to the copyright, but I understand this is the first time it’s been released in print. This is, in effect, a children’s picture book, much lighter in text and visual than the author’s The Sleeper and the Spindle (for instance). Therefore this is little character development (though the Rani’s aunt is annoying in only a few lines).

Continue reading

Doctor Strange Vol. 2: The Last Days of Magic by Jason Aaron, Chris Bachalo

dr-strange

They’ve crossed the dimensions, purging each of all sorcery. Now the Empirikul are here. And with Earth’s Master of the Mystic Arts weakened beyond measure, is there any chance of stopping them? The Sorcerer is no longer Supreme, and he’ll find himself at the mercy of the Imperator! With his magic destroyed and his world on the brink of disaster, are there any more tricks left up Strange’s sleeves? Or failing that, how about some cool weapons? Plus: As the Empirikul wreak havoc on magic users across the Marvel Universe, discover Wong’s ultimate sacrifice, watch Brother Voodoo make a stand, and meet a new player just as she’s about to lose the game!

I’ve not read Dr Strange before and I picked this book up around the time the film came out in the hope of brushing up on some of the source material.

It took me several attempts to get into the story and it was only later that I realised the probable reason for this – when I brought it, I didn’t realise this was the second half of a story arc, and I haven’t read the first novel.  The Empirikul, having decimated other realities, have come to this world, and are decimating their way through the magical forces in the world. It is up to Strange and the other magicians to band together to prevent the loss of everything, sometimes making total sacrifices to achieve the end.

Continue reading

Book Review: Fantastic Four: The End by Alan Davis

fantastic four the endAlan Davis writes and pencils the final story of Marvel’s first family Even the strongest family can be torn apart by tragedy – and in the futuristic world of tomorrow, the members of the once-Fantastic Four are divided and vulnerable to opponents from their past. What events could have caused the FF to go their separate ways, and how does their disbanding set the stage for a conflict that will send shockwaves across the galaxy and beyond? Collects Fantastic Four: The End #1-6.

20 years after the death of Reed and Sue’s children in a FF Fight, we find that the Fantastic Four have split up. Johnny and Ben have moved on, building new lives  – Ben has three children with Alicia Masters and lives on Mars, while Johnny has become the leader of the Avengers. Reed and Sue are not longer talking to each other and both are losing themselves in work.

The plot is fairly forgettable – aliens attacking from outside and within. All the classic villains are there, such as  Annihilus, and the long defeated Doctor Doom: Galactus shows up for the finale and it all seems to be driven by the Kree and the Skree, with the Watchers managing to meddle somehow.

Whilst doing some deep water archaeology, Sue meets Namor, and finds a long abandoned Kree site, including a Kree Orb. In the end, during a massive battle, a (still grief stricken) Sue persuades the FF to go back in time to rescue her children at the point of their deaths, using the Kree orb.

Whilst the overall Marvel series is classed as “The End” the FF part is as much about beginnings as endings. It is a “cast of thousands” story, that means it ends up as a bit of a mess and it’s not really clear to know where the threat is really coming from.

#ArmchairBEA: Visual Expressions

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes
Design by Amber of Shelf Notes

Visual Expressions
There are so many ways to tell stories. Whether it’s comic books, graphic novels, visual novels, webcomics, etc, there are quite a lot of other mediums to tell a story. On this day, we will be talking about those books and formats that move beyond just words and use other ways to experience a story.

I live in the same city in the UK that I lived in in the late 1980s when I went to Uni. It was the 1980s and Uni that lead me into reading and buying comics – I’m not sure that the phrase “Graphic Novel” was heavily in use then. When I moved to Ireland in the mid 1990s, I unfortunately made the decision to get rid of my comics – of which I had a decent collection at that time. I moved back here in 2006 and have been collecting comics/Graphic Novels ever since.   The same shop (and some of the same staff!) is there from the 1980s.   There’s a great community around it, with fund raising, drinking down the pub, and even out of hours tweeting by and between staff.

I have several nieces and nephews and I have already converted at least one to enjoying reading Comics – including the English classics of “The Beano” and “The Dandy”. He has recently started reading some of the “Asterix” books too.

In terms of what I’m reading right now: Lots of Marvel and DC comics, so Captain America, Avengers, Spiderman, Wonderwoman etc. I am also trying to branch out into other houses and writers – the good thing about this year’s Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) which was on Saturday May 2nd, is that it seems that the comic book houses have twigged it’s a great opportunity to get new readers to view new stories, characters or lines. I managed to pick up several comics on the day and there are already new lines I have an eye on.

As with many industries, especially the general entertainment one, there has been some progression in terms of gender and sexual equality within the comic book world but plenty more still to do. Whilst on one hand there’s Orson Scott Card, on the other there’s Gail Simone.

 

Book Review: Saga (Volume #1) by Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist)

saga graphic novelStar Wars-style action collides with Game of Thrones-esque drama in this original sci-fi/fantasy epic for mature readers, as new parents Marko and Alana risk everything to raise their child amidst a never-ending galactic war.

This has been on my shelves for a while, as have Volumes 2 and 3….

It starts with Alana (from the planet Landfall) giving birth to her daughter conceived with Marko (he from the moon Wreath) – they are from two opposing sides on a long running war, that noone really knows why the war is still going on. Both are soldiers, though Marko is really a vegetarian pacifist, who has a good line in healing powers.

They have to go onto the move almost immediately as they are being chased by their enemies, including Prince IV (a humanoid with TV for a head); The Stalk and The Will, the latter two being mercenaries who have been hired to track the two of them down. Alana and Marko are to be killed but their child (now being called Hazel) is to be brought in alive.

Alana, Marko and Hazel are guided to an escape point by Izabel, a ghost – a young girl who is presented as being cut off at the waist, her entrails hanging neatly below her torso.

This is the beginning of the story (there are another three volumes, with more likely) so there are plenty of threads being kicked off and none of them really being resolved. The story is narrated by Hazel whose voice is portrayed as writing in the cell, foreshadowing what’s coming.

The artwork is thankfully away from that of the main houses, which allows for a more individualistic look, and where you rarely remember the wings or the horns of the two main characters. It has all the makings of a decent space opera and I can see why this, and subsequent volumes, are award winning. Certainly a set of books to keep an eye on.