This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Slaine: Time Killer.
Several years ago when I was over in the UK I was searching for a graphic novel or trade paperback to buy that originated in Britain. I ended up in a comic shop without much selection in that area, so picked up the only trade they had, which was Slaine: Time Killer, without knowing anything about it. Once I got back to Canada, the TPB still unread, I popped it on the bookshelf without thinking and promptly ignored it for the best part of five years. Yesterday I decided to read it, and today I decided to write about it. So what’s the story about? Well according to the blurb on Goodreads…
“2000 AD’s ever-popular Celtic hero returns in a deluxe collectors’ hardback edition Before the events of ‘The Horned Go”, a group comprising of Slaine; Ukko, his faithful((if evil-smelling) dwarf; Nest, a trainee priestess who knows the secrets of the Land of the Young; and Slaine’s vast, voracious dragon steed, the Knucker, wander Tir-Nan-Og in search of the fortress of the Ever-Living Ones, arch-druids who may hold the key to the final defeat of the evil forces oppressing Slaine’s people. But a chance encounter with a demonic alien race who are besieging the fortess, hurls Slaine and his allies through time… to ever-greater battles, threats, and challenges.”
The Pat Mill‘s scripted stories in this TPB originally appeared in the weekly British magazine 2000 AD in three separate serialized runs. Dragonheist (with Massimo Belardinelli providing the art), in 2000 AD #361–367 from 1984, and The Time Killer (with art by Glenn Fabry, David Pugh and Bryan Talbot), in 2000 AD #411–428 and 431–434 from 1985. Those original stories were all black and white, and that’s how they’re reprinted in the 172 page collected edition, which means that the art has a high level of detail and line work packed into each page.
The compact nature of 2000 AD‘s publishing style (anaverage of three to five pages of the story are in each issue of the magazine) mean that the story moves at an incredible pace, with something interesting happening every other page or so. When it comes to a story published nearly thirty five years ago in a weekly anthology style magazine, it’s surprising how well it continues to hold up. The nature of the short bursts of story across multiple weeks means that there are very small recaps at the beginning of each of the reprinted weekly stories mean that there’s never, ever, a danger of losing what’s happening. Unfortunately, the preview text on the back also dictates almost the entirety of the first half of the book (which I have kindly placed up above for you with slightly different wording).
So why is this underrated? Have you ever heard of the character, let alone this specific trade?
Don’t go into this expecting a deep and soul searching journey. This is a Conan the Barbarian style yarn mixed with some fantasy science fiction and a lot of rather gruesome action. The science doesn’t always work, and there are some flaws along the way, such as some hastily explained concepts mere moments before or after they occur in the story. But the second person narrative from Slaine’s companion is enjoyably dry, and the visuals show just how good black and white art can be (and remember, these strips were published weekly).
That’s all I have for this wee, but next week there will doubtless be another movie, series, comic or comic related thing discussed that is, for whatever reason, Underrated.
I’ll see you then.