''Hard bony limbs covered in leathered skin
Behind his eyes with the rage of ten warped men
Without a sound he steals right through the night
The sign of death to him brings grim delight
Those marked for death can feel him coming near
Some stand in fight and some just cry in fear
On a horse black, the dark lord takes to flight
But no one forgets the Highlander rode tonight''
is one of the titles published in 2000 AD
, focused on the fantastical adventures of Sláine mac Roth, an Irish Celt who can best be described as as a cross between Conan the Barbarian
and Cúchulainn, the mythological Irish hero from the Ulster Cycle.
Initially an outcast exile for his seduction and impregnation of the intended future bride of the Sessair tribe's king, the strong-willed Niahm, Sláine roamed the Land of the Young with only his axe to defend him and the perverse dwarf Ukko for company. Rescuing a maiden doomed to sacrifice in a Wicker Man earned him her eternal enmity, for she was the witch Medb, disciple of the Lord Weird Slough Fegh, and devotee of Crom Cruach. When he returned to his tribe, Sláine became their king and the High King of the Tuatha de Danaan, leading wars against the demonic Formorians and Golahms, and traveling through time at the behest of Danu to interfere with the prehuman alien gods known as the Cythrons.
This series contains examples of
- Action Girl: Quite a few, Niamh being the most prominent. The fact that celtic people didn't have quite as many hang-ups about assertive warrior-women as most others is milked for all it's worth.
- Alien Space Bats / Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: a Time Travel arc has Danu using Sláine to champion her cause through the ages, which has him helping out Boudicca and William Wallace (an amusingly closer to history version than the one from Braveheart) and being the actual Robin Goodfellow.
- An Axe to Grind: Sláine's primary weapon is his massive stone-headed axe. He calls it Brainbiter.
- Anti-Hero: Sláine on a bad day he's the "good guy" pretty much only because he kills even worse people stone dead.
- Bad Ass: He regularly takes on whole armies and eldritch abominations (even whole armies of eldritch abominations at times) and comes out on top, mostly through raw brutality - or supernatural powers that push that raw brutality Up to Eleven.
- Blade on a Stick: When the axe is not available or not suitable, Sláine wields a massive spear called a Gáe Bolga, noted for its wickedly barbed tip and intended to be driven deep into an opponent's gut. There is also one of the Four Treasures of Danu, the Sun Spear, which never misses and always returns when thrown, and constantly thirsts for blood.
- Black and Gray Morality: The villains in the series are monstrous, but the morality of the "heroes" is pretty twisted sometimes, adhering as it does to primeval Celtic codes. For example, to celebrate the victorious conclusion of the first war against the Formorians, King Gann mac Dela's own tribe sacrifice and eat him.
- Big Bad: The Lord Weird Slough Feg himself is the closest thing the series comes to one. He is Killed Off for Real at the end of the Horned God story arc.
- Call Back: Slough Feg's Madness Mantra in the Horned God arc is a variation on something he said in the Tomb of Terror arc.
- When dismissing the Fomorian tax collector, Niamh states she "doesn't speak to fish". Years later, Sláine repeats the phrase and frames it as "something someone very dear to me used to say."
- When meeting Sláine for the first time in years, Niamh scolds him for having an affair with a "trollop called Hen or Chicken or something", names the character Nest has been called before.
- Catch Phrase: "He/I didn't think it too many." after either Ukko or Sláine recounts some tale in which he slaughters people in large quantities.
- Depending on the Artist: Sláine's design, as well as the design of his world, have gone through many changes
- A realistic but pulpy style under Angie Kincaid and Massimo Belardinelli, very reminiscent of other 2000AD strips
- Mike Mc Mahon's style was hyperstylized but simple, the characters often being indistinguishable from the background
- The pulp returned with Glenn Farby; this time employing an incredible amount of detail in character designs and the environment, but basic anatomy and perspective often suffered as a result. He improved when joined by Nik Williams; the detail was reigned in slightly, but the anatomy was perfect.
- Mike Collins and Mark Farmer had a simple style again, often emphasising the faces of the characters and employing dreamlike imagery to augment the backgrounds.
- Simon Bisley was the first Sláine artist to use paint, and the result is breathtaking. Backgrounds are vibrant and colorful, feeling alive. They were joined by heavy use of imagery and visual metaphor. The characters were incredibly expressive with their body language and facial expressions, which were sometimes exaggerated for comedif effect. Character designs are toned down a bit, becoming more realistic in terms of accessory and physique. You'll rarely see gigantic breasts or bulging muscles, and when you do it'll be to evoke classical notions of artistry, or as part of the plot, and not for fanservice.
- Clint Langley's art strives for photorealism, and it succeeds spectacularly. To compensate for the realism of the characters themselves, their designs are often very busy, with many accessories and multiple layers of clothing. Bisley's style is occasionally drawn on for the framing of panels.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Usually once per story arc, sometimes more.
- The Ditz / Too Dumb to Live: Avaggdu. So terminally stupid that when tricked into biting his hands, he doesn't notice they're his and starts devouring himself until there's literally nothing left.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Sláine is almost unrecognisable in his first few appearences, being a more straightfoward Conan expy with a simpler character design to match; his personality is similar but distinct, being less intelligent and more willing to cooperate with Ukko. The world the stories take place in is a more traditional 2000AD Crapsack World instead of a fantastical iron age Ireland, and though some elements of the world, such as Sky Chariots, Sea Demons and Slough Feg would remain, others like Time Monsters, Leyser weapons and the Macrocosm were phased out.
- In some cases, certain elements of the earlier stories were changed to better fit the world. Leyser Weapons, mentioned as getting their power from channelling the "Earth-Serpent", became "Serpent Staffs", now functioning more like flamethrowers than lasers. The Macrocosm became a seldom-referenced home of old Gods instead of a Sci-Fi alternate dimension with aliens.
- Eldritch Abomination: Avaggdu, Crom Cruach, Cythrons, Fomorians, Golahms, and Els all count to differing degrees.
- The Fair Folk: The Els, mostly. Sláine's people have bit of this going on as well, despite being human, seeing as they're the Tuatha de Danaan of Irish myth.
- Fanservice: Appart form the copious bloodshed, there's also the fact that many if not most female characters are scantily-clad über-babes. And for those who prefer beefcake to cheesecake, ripped and bare-chested Sláine almost certainly counts.
- Fat Bastard: Sláine's father Roth.
- Foe Yay: Sláine and Medb have this sort of vibe - and Elfric later on, though in this case Sláine most definitely does not reciprocate.
- Frazetta Man: The Avanc from the Horned God arc, though he turns out to be a Last of His Kind Woobie.
- Full-Frontal Assault: Protagonists and antagonists both do this on a regular basis.
- Funny Foreigner: It's implied that Ukko is Finnish.
- Gladiator Revolt: Sláine orchestrated a revolt amongst the Cythrons' human gladiators.
- Good Old Ways: Early on Sláine prefers stone weapons to bronze or iron; his main complaint being that metal weapons must be straightened when frequently used, and "you know where you stand with stone". He eventually swaps out Brainbiter's stone head for an iron one when he shatters it fighting a dragon.
- He is also supportive of the ancient idea of a divine matriarchy, opposed by both the good Druids and the evil Drunes.
- Gorn: Lots and lots of people and things are splattered all over the place.
- Half-Human Hybrid: Not a good thing here, as they tend to take after their more monstrous parent - Elfric, the most prominent, is a thoroughly depraved Humanoid Abomination.
- Human Sacrifice: Used by both protagonists and antagonists alike.
- I Call It "Vera": Sláine's axe goes by the charmingly apt name of "Brainbiter".
- Jerk Ass: Ukko manages to be a little bastard by both modern and in-story moral standards. He tends to remain mostly loyal to Slaine throughout, probably due to having a good sense of self-preservation.
- Lovecraftian Superpower/One-Winged Angel: Sláine's "warp-spasm" causes him to mutate into grotesquely ugly forms while gaining incredible strength, resilience and bloodlust.
- Night of the Living Mooks: Invoked by the "good" guys with the cauldron-born undead, who are used for the greatest battles (mostly against the Fomorians).
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Averted. Dwarves in Sláine are ugly, rude, mostly hairless, lecherous, greedy, goblin-like creatures. They're thieves and scavengers, not warriors.
- Our Elves Are Better: They're alien beings from the "Els-Where", dimensions that exist at right angles to our own. Malevolent ones are called "Dev-Els", while relatively neutral ones are called "Ang-Els".
- Path of Inspiration: It's strongly implied most monotheistic religions as we know them are fronts for Cosmic Horror gods.
- Rated M for Manly: Sometimes verging into Testosterone Poisoning. And it is awesome.
- Religion of Evil: The cult of the Drunes estabished by the Lord Weird Slough Feg; any religion that has anything to do with the Cythrons.
- Sidekick: Ukko the dwarf to Sláine, mostly a mix of Sarcastic Devotee, Poisonous Friend, Servile Snarker and (not so) Lovable Traitor. So yeah, he's pretty much a jerk 24/7.
- Time Travel: The Mother Goddess sent Sláine on several cross-time adventures (to the future, from his point of view) so he could influence events in favor of Celtic ways — he ended up helping Boudicca's rebellion against the Romans, being the inspiration for Robin Goodfellow and ensuring Celtic traditions wouldn't be completely wiped out by Christianity, even lending a hand to William Wallace (who is amusingly enough portrayed in a more historically accurate way than in Braveheart).
- Too Kinky to Torture: When Slaine travels back to post-Arthurian times, Sir Lancelot has taken refuge in a monastery. Slaine's rival and his mooks take the place over and proceed to torture Lancelot to discover the location of a magical chessboard. Problem is, Lancelot feels he should be punished for his affair with Guinevere and even offers the mooks his own equipment to torture him with.
- The Vamp: Medb really enjoys using her feminine charms to get her way.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Sláine usually dresses that way. Sometimes he doesn't bother dressing, period.