REVIEW: THE BALLAD OF HALF HANGED MACNAGHTEN

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Review by David Ferguson

Written by Daniel McLaughlin
Art by Adam Pescott

This book is based on the local Derry legend of John “Half Hanged” MacNaghten. It is a legend that the guys at Uproar Comics grew up with, and with this adaptation, they continue a long tradition of Irish authors retelling Irish folklore and legends for a more modern audience.

John MacNaghton was a land owner, gambler and generally not a nice guy. Versions of this story vary from his being a stalker of Mary Ann Knox to the more romantic version where her father was overbearing and was trying to prevent their romance and marriage. Daniel McLaughlin decided to “be a bit a roguish” like the titular character and tell a more romantic version taking a bit of artistic license in the process. He does a good job of keeping the feel of old legend (I love the inclusion of the odd “cúpla focal”) while at the same time telling it in a way that modern audiences would appreciate.

The art by Adam Pescott is at the more cartoony end of the spectrum. He has worked as a storyboard artist and illustrator and this shows in his artwork. Each image is very well illustrated and gives you a very clear idea of what is going on. The book is well researched and the clothes and the backgrounds look authentic to the time period. It is not usually an art style I prefer but I think this book very well put together.

This is the kind of story I feel that more Irish writers should be telling. There is a rich vein of folklore and legends in Ireland and I think that these are the kinds of stories that could bring in a non-comic reading audiences including people from outside the country with an interest in learning more about Ireland. Heck my dad, who is a complete non-comic reading civilian, wants to read this book so more of the same please.