REVIEW: Damien Goodfellow's Brian Boru: Ireland's Warrior King

Story & Art by: Damien Goodfellow
Publisher: O’Brien Press
Cover Price: €14.99
Book Summery: Men’s lives are controlled by powerful warlords. Brutal tribal warfare ensures glory and riches for some, slavery and destruction for others.
From the dark misty shores west of the Shannon, Brian Boru battles his way to become High King, ending the six-hundred-year reign of the Northern O’Neill’s. But status, once gained, must be retained; the Norse and Danes, new migrants to Irish shores, fight to stem Brian’s increasing power, while fierce Irish tribes also seek control.
As Brian spends his days in a whirlwind of constant conflict, his wife, Gormfhlaith, battles to save her family – at any cost …
Review: Galway’s Damien Goodfellow debut graphic novel from O’Brien Press, released earlier this year is the latest OGN from the Irish publishers foray into the graphic novel genre. Having seen their other OGN’s land to critical and commercial successes I was very interested in seeing weather or not the roll would continue with this tale ofIreland’s last High King.
Just about everyone has heard of Brian Boru but I challenge anyone to tell me ten facts about him. I, myself, live just a few minutes from where modern day Kincora (Killaloe) is and I don’t think I could tell you five facts about him, which in turn made this book almost a study of one Ireland’s most legendary leaders.
What I wasn’t prepared for however was how strong of a narrative writer Goodfellow was able to produce. He made the story an incredibly linear, interesting and compelling read and he showed a keen eye for the politics of the era which leads me to conclude that prior to putting pen to paper to write the book that a huge amount of research went into it.
The book highlights the major events in the life of Brian and the various sacrifices he had to make in order to build a reputation in his peak years as a fearsome and unforgiving warrior who later in life was instrumental in forging over a decade of peace between the various clans. This part of the book was the most interesting as these clans were split in their opinion of weather to overthrow him or continue in peace under his rule. But the clans were warring long before Brian came to power and it was ingrained in them to not lay idle for too long and in the end at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, one of the most infamous battles in Irish history, Brain was cut down in a scene expertly crafted by Goodfellow full of tension and consequence.
The story was a great surprise to me with how good it was and the art was also great. With a great sense of grittiness about it you could feel that bitter winter that the troops were encamped in outside the walls ofDublin. Goodfellow has a great style that suited the story he was telling perfectly. I was thinking if the book would be any different in black and white but actually the choice to have it full colour was the correct one as its visual impact would have been lessened if done in b & w.
A total winner on every level, I can’t recommend this book enough. It  shows that O’Brien Press are been very shrewd in their picking of titles to print in their fledgling graphic novel programme to the point that any project forthcoming will be highly anticipated and will have a high bar of quality to live up to.