REVIEW: Celtic Warrior: The Legend of Cú Chulainn

Celtic Warrior: The Legend of Cú Chulainn

Created by: Will Sliney

Published by: The O’Brien Press

Price: €14.99

It’s probably fair to say that this there is a lot of expectations resting on the shoulders of Will Sliney and his new original graphic novel from O’Brien Press with Celtic Warrior The Legend of Cú Chulainn. Not least from Sliney himself who has devoted more than a year of his life to bringing his vision for this book to reality. We have seen online art samples in recent months where we were teased to what looked like something special. Sliney, more known for his art and those qualities never in doubt, took on writing duties also with this book and I felt that a real test of his abilities rested in how he handled that aspect of the production.

The book is based largely in part on the Táin Bó Cuailgne, an age-old Irish tale whereby Queen Maeve of Connaught is obsessed with the Brown Bull of Ulster. The hero of the tale of course is the legendary warrior Cú Chulainn, known the world over today as the embodiment of the fabled Irish warrior past, a man of extraordinary skill and surrounding myth and a mighty character to set yourself up to tell a story about.
I noted above regarding the fact that Sliney was writing the book also. Any fears about that aspect were quickly allayed with what turned out to be a hugely entertaining story. The story structure is particularly appealing with a number of scenes that explore the earlier life of Cú Chulainn and the events in his formative years that led him to become the man he did. The haunting narrative that accompanied each chapter opening was great as was Sliney’s ability to string along the reader with an engrossing tale that was as violent and brutal as it was fulfilling and encompassing.
The ‘present day’ part of the book is handled with care as Sliney crafts a growing narrative that has a foreboding build up to a violent and tragic conclusion that brings with it tones of the supernatural and epic fantasy that you easily lose yourself in.
Sliney’s art in the book is nothing short of visceral. Each chapter opens with a segmented series of panels that showed some cool forethought on the book’s production. There is a ton of superb memorable images none so much as on page two where we see Cú Chulainn set up in an image that sets the bar high for the rest of the book and the same image is used to close out the book in what seems like a rounded and complete manner. As for the characters themselves, the warriors predominantly look like chiselled muscular beasts of men, something that wouldn’t be remiss in the ‘squared circle’ while Sliney’s abilities shine through in the action packed almost cinematic fight scenes. One scene of note is in the latter part of chapter four where the forces take to the sea in a storm in a series of pages that boast some superb imagery culminating with a devastating scene on a rope bridge.
Special mention must go to the colour contrasts of the flashbacks and the main story where Sliney slowly reveals the foundation of Cú Chulainn’s character from a young age with details familiar to some but fleshed out by Sliney and expanded expertly.
The fact that the book is a labour of love really shines through in what truly is a benchmark for domestically produced graphic novels. Sliney can hold his head high with what he has accomplished and O’Brien Press can add another critical success to their growing stable of home-grown titles. Simply, a superb offering.