Sláine: The Book of Scars

Marking 30 years of the Celtic barbarian’s adventures, this special anniversary book brings together a new story from creator Pat Mills and the biggest artists to have worked on Sláine over the past three decades.

Artists from Sláine’s past including Glenn Fabry and Simon Bisley return in a continuity laden script from Pat Mills that sees Sláine bounce from key moments in his timeline that have been altered to turn the tide against him. Whilst it’s interesting for new readers to get a potted history of Sláine, the problem is that these fleeting moments mean nothing to me as a new reader because of how short they are, and precious little more to long term readers who demand a bit more bite.

The first chapter’s final panel I can see being a seminal moment within this story though as Clint Langley’s photo-realistic art style gives way to the classic black and white style popularised by Massimo Belardinelli. Breathtakingly executed, the gravity of the moment isn’t even lost on this new reader. From there though, the story descends into its own kind of impenetrable hell.

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But this is an inherent danger when crafting anniversary stories, if a series cannot indulge itself on a significant 30th anniversary, when can it? The Book of Scars clearly isn’t meant for me, it’s for the fans. However, it seems that even the fan reaction was pretty apathetic by all accounts.

The risk in re-telling key moments from Sláine’s history is that it leads to inevitable comparisons with the original adventures. I have no such reference point, and as a result I felt a little lost amid all the references. For those that do, and I have consulted a couple of Sláine readers, there’s a mixture of irritation and disappointment that the story doesn’t say more, or do more to embed Sláine as a character – it’s just a scant collection of greatest hits in a pretty package.

Chapter 5 – a continuation of events seen in ‘The Horned God’, is one of the few highlights. The metatextual running gag between Ukko and Nests is a great in-joke concerning reprints and revised editions.

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Stylistically, the artwork within The Book of Scars is consistently sumptuous, and almost acts as much as commentary on the development of art styles as celebration. Certainly the remainder of the book, which is passed over to the definitive bible of Sláine covers and artwork, is crammed with information and it’s hard not to drool over some of the outstanding artwork. Suddenly The Book of Scars becomes the essential bible to the series. It's just a shame such a great overview feels bolted onto The Book of Scars to make it trade length.

It’s entirely possible that this story has irritated many and pleased few. Sláine’s greatest hits are a great idea, but nt disappointingly executed. It was a clever idea to involve a lot of the original artists; it gives a flavour of continuity for long term fans. But for die-hard fans, the episodes are too slight and for newcomers they’re borderline impenetrable. I ended up treating The Book of Scars as a glorified picture album. Indeed, it’s that section of the book that saves The Book of Scars from being an otherwise disappointing package.

The Book of Scars is available to buy now from Rebellion or your local comic store.

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