Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sláine: The Horned God (1998)

Author: Pat Mills | Illustrator: Simon Bisley | Page Count: 192

'From the south came the Drune Lords and their Skull Sword soldiers … led by the Old Horned God – The Lord Weird Slough Feg.'

Sláine gave Pat Mills the opportunity to write the traditional axe-wielding barbarian but to tinker with the stereotype a little.  He took the muscle-bound Conan type and gave him a sensitive side.  The dwarf, Ukko, narrates the story of Slaine’s ascent to power, his love of the Goddess and his quest to acquire four sacred weapons.  It contrasts the reflective quiet moments in the warrior's life with the bloody and violent necessity of war, providing ample opportunity to bury his trusty axe (Brainbiter) in some thick enemy skulls.

This book is often cited as the quintessential Sláine epic but in truth it’s not the best work Mills has produced; it never really excites as much as it should or as much as Mills was capable of.

I suspect the real reason The Horned God endures is due to Simon Bisley’s magnificent art.  2000 AD gave Bisley his start and its right that he should have given them his finest work to date, on both Sláine and ABC warriors (also written by Mills).  His influences are easy to spot.  He’s heavily inspired by Frank Frazetta and Gustav Klimt, and even throws in some HR Giger from time to time.
It’s fully-painted throughout.  Fully-painted work is so rare these days that it’s a joy to revisit a time when it received the love it deserves.  For me, it's Bisley’s masterpiece.  There are a number of full-page pieces which are simply stunning.

If the quality of the story matched the quality of the art, The Horned God would get a resounding 5 out of 5 but unfortunately it falls a little short of perfection.

3½ reasons to kiss my axe out of 5

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