Thursday, 7 November 2013

‘Slaine: The Book of Scars’ – Various (Rebellion)

The more I think about it the more I realise that I was completely wrong in saying that one book started me off on a decades long love of genre fiction. How could that possibly be when I was reading loads of genre books? They all did their bit in gently ushering me down a path that I haven’t ever wanted to step off in all these years. Loads of bits from loads of books, all shaping what I’m into now. Slaine the Beserker was one of those elements. I knew about Slaine way before I ever got round to picking up a Conan book. Conan may have the better stories but Slaine is a character that looms on the page in exactly the same way. I read what I could of Slaine, when I could, and it was all awesome. Well, maybe not all of ‘Slaine the King’ but enough of it for me to be happy.

All of this quite possibly makes me the wrong person to be reviewing ‘The Book of Scars’ then; being the fan that I am I probably won’t be all that objective. Or will I? Lets have a go and see what happens shall we?

The thing to be aware of with ‘The Book of Scars’ is that the actual story, that gives the book its name, barely takes up half of the book itself. The rest of the book (the bulk in fact) is given over to a retrospective dealing with thirty years of absolutely gorgeous Slaine artwork (thirty years, I feel very old). That’s brilliant if you’re a fan like me, more on that in a bit, but probably not so good if you’re not and want a book with lots of story. You might just want to bear that in mind.

If you are a fan though, you’re in for a bit of a treat.

The ‘Thirty of Years of Slaine Covers’ is a dream come true for fans of Slaine and, it has to be said, fans of barbarians that either look brooding or just like to fight whatever is in front of them. Great stuff.
It’s not just artwork though, it would get boring really quickly if there was only the art (yeah, I’m looking at you Black Library with your ‘The Emperor’s Might’…) What we get here is a little insight into each piece from the creator themselves. I for one find this approach really interesting as it offers a completely different perspective on things. Slaine may well be fighting his way out of a dragon’s jaws but why? Some of the answers will make you look at the covers in a whole new way.

The ‘Book of Scars’ story feels a little lightweight (in terms of length, there isn’t much to it) although there is plenty going on with Slaine revisiting past triumphs and fighting to keep history moving forward on the right path. Again, this is probably more one for fans who will undoubtedly get more out of seeing pivotal moments in Slaine’s history twisted into new threats to the Land of the Young. I certainly did, especially watching Ukko have to rewrite Slaine’s fight with Slough Feg (which made me laugh).
What I really got into though was the stunning artwork that once again really captures Celtic influences, the wildness of Slaine’s world and all the blood and brains that seem to be following in the path of Slaine’s axe. It’s stirring stuff although sometimes the influences can be a little too strong (Elfric anyone?).
What was also interesting to see was Clint Langley taking on art duties for ‘The Bride of Crom’ but carrying them out in the style of Massimo Belardinelli (the artist for the original story). Langley pulls it off in such a way that it is faithful to Belardinelli’s work while still showing what Langley is all about. I loved it.

I think it’s fair to say then that ‘The Book of Scars’ is one for the fans but then who else but a fan would buy an ‘Anniversary Edition’ book anyway? Fans will love what they find in these pages though, I did. Here’s to another thirty (which would put me at sixty eight, I’m game…)

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