The second volume of Pat Mills and Simon Davis’s latest fantasy trilogy, featuring Celtic berserker Slaine.
The story so far: 2000AD‘s Celtic warrior, Slaine MacRoth, has been tasked with rescuing the young maiden Sinead from the Drune Lords. But, in true cliffhanger style, Slaine has been captured and is about to be put to death!
Volume 2 of the Brutania Chronicles is a more reflective storyline than the first book was. The actual plot is slight. Instead the story focusses on fight scenes and flashbacks. It takes Slaine well over a dozen pages (around a fifth of the entire book) to simply escape at the beginning – which, of course, you knew he would do anyway!
Later Slaine faces the might of the Trojan Army and their ultimate warrior – the eponymous Primordial. Before he gets there he faces a psychic attack that focusses on his (and the readers’) memories. It’s an interesting, non-physical diversion for the overly physical warrior, but ultimately only really rewards long-term readers of the saga.
Primordial suffers from the so-called ‘second album’ syndrome. Clearly, there’s not enough plot to sustain three volumes, so writer Pat Mills is content to become a bit more introspective, hopefully saving the big story points for the third and final volume. It feels a little like it’s treading water, waiting for the finale to come along and rescue it.
In his introduction, Mills addresses this very point, saying ‘Celtic heroes often veer off in mid-saga into realms of magic and mystery,’ so perhaps he isn’t completely to blame. Indeed, reading the introduction one realises Mills feels a responsibility to right the perceived wrongs of both the education system and media portrayals of the history of this time. It’s a brave path to travel – many of us simply want a good story, told well!
More frustratingly, Simon Davis’ artwork doesn’t feel as fresh as it did. There’s no longer a feeling of ‘the shock of the new’ and it’s not quite as inventive or exciting as it was. Davis saves his best for last, however, with a fantastic sequence as the Lord Weird sloughs off his skin.
Interestingly, it’s the bonus material that forms the best aspect of this volume. Davis’s black and white sketch gallery is simply lovely – detailed inventive panels, that seem to lose the frisson of excitement as they get translated into the digitally painted final art.