A Pagan Place
♦Contributing Writer TIM HAYES casts his eye over Slaine: The Brutania Chronicles Book Three Psychopomp from Rebellion…
Slaine The Brutania Chronicles Book Three Psychopomp
Writer: Pat Mills
Artist: Simon Davis
Pat Mills regularly pays tribute to the artwork in Slaine, and the strip has always had the knack of being defined by the look of its highly individual artists, who are nonetheless drawing exactly what Mills has specifically asked for. But even by the standards of Slaine’s artistic tradition, Simon Davis’s current work on the strip is exceptional, a vivid wash of colour and bodies that matches the density of Mills’s pagan philosophies and gleeful slaughter, without getting bogged down in any dull issues of realism.
Rebellion’s recent Slaine volume have tended to start in the middle of things and finish the same way, and there aren’t many concessions to casual readers trying to map out how the backstories are unwinding. As it happens, Davis’s painted art is very accessible and has bags of forward momentum, so once the strip picks up steam the reader just goes with the flow; but some handholds on the narrative might be welcome. This collection also spends a lot of time in dank underground cells, which takes some of Davis’s sweeping outdoor landscapes and arboreal detailing off the table too, while Slaine resists the tortures of the Lord Gododin and discovers that his comrade Gort has been his betrayer. At one point Slaine and Gort both contort into ferocious warp-spasm at the same time, and look like two cave paintings of an autopsy.
The plot has both Slaine and his enemies considering their family trees, and the book also includes the one-off tale of a young Slaine from 2000AD’s fortieth anniversary special, with Slaine wondering exactly how well he really knew his mother. Family strife reinforces the feel of ancient mythology that Mills always enjoys, and the art gives the strip the kind of feverishness that myths need to pull off their trickster twists. A character who turns out to have hidden a full-size iron horseshoe in his hair the whole time is going to need the right facial expressions to pull it off, and Davis’s faces are vivid and just slightly mad – especially Sinead, the woad-painted priestess drawn, as Davis says in his introduction, to look like Yolandi Visser from Die Antwoord. The end sets up the next volume, with Slaine facing a fresh army of enemies trying to do what they always do and enforce rigidity, embrace decay and impose conformity of thought on the Isle of Monadh. Luckily for everyone there and elsewhere, Davis’s art exhibits none of those things.
Slaine: The Brutania Chronicles Vol.3 Psychopomp is out now