Writer: Pat MillsArtist: Simon BeasleyPublisher: Rebellion (£13.99, paperback)
This is the stuff of legend. It’s not cheap at a penny shy of £14 for 208 full-colour pages, but what you’re getting here is extreme quality, a genuinely collectable trade paperback and an all-time classic story. Sláine is pissed off. Considering he’s built like a brick outhouse and has a tendency to go into an uncontrollably violent warp spasm when annoyed, he’s not an easy person to be around when he’s in a bad mood – just ask his long-suffering dwarven companion and the strip’s inevitable comic relief, Ukko. And in this tale of an ancient war against the dying, decaying Horned God, he’s in a very bad mood…
Drawing on numerous Celtic legends and traditions, Mills outlines a tale of the subdued people of Tir-Nan-Og, who are suffering under the jackboot of the Drunes, strange druids who have poisoned the land with evil magic. Sláine has had enough of their tyranny. Through the Earth Goddess, he learns some shocking truths about the priesthood and his own future, and now must unite the four kings of Tir-Nan-Og and use their mystical weapons as he and the Sessair tribe prepare for all-out war!
The Horned God was originally offered in three volumes, all of which are reproduced here. Its high-quality paper is the perfect medium for Bisley’s breathtaking illustrations, and Mills’ intricate story does far more than recant the tale of a barbarian whose muscles are bigger than his brain. Instead, the values and norms of ancient Celtic society are explored, with enough depth and gravity to make you reflect on your own society’s values, but not so much it gets in the way of the tale, something Mills has been justifiably criticised for elsewhere.
Unlike the recent Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files releases, there’s a host of extras in here too. Pat Mills writes a very interesting foreword, where he puts the tale into context of what was going on in 2000 AD at the time, and the saga is rounded off with an interesting commentary. Did you know the relationship between Sláine and Ukko was part-based on Minder, with Sláine as the tough, no-nonsense Terry McCann and Ukko as the greedy, ridiculous Arthur Daley? Neither did I, and nor would I ever have guessed.
Since his first 2000 AD appearance in 1983, Sláine has grown to become one of the magazine’s best-loved characters, and The Horned God is to date his high water mark. It proved so popular sales of 2000 AD rose appreciably during its run, and the series has yet to reach these lofty heights again. An epic in every sense of the word, Mills’ brilliant storytelling and Bisley’s breathtaking visuals combine to deliver an all-time classic. A must-have for anyone who considers comics to be an art form in their own right, and not just a disposable Saturday-afternoon treat for the kids.