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