Advance Review: Saltire Annihilation part 2

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Publisher: Diamond Steel Comics
Writer: John Ferguson
Art: Claire Roe
Colours: Lauren Knight
Lettering: Phillip Vaughan
Cover: James Devlin

In Saltire Annihilation part 1, we saw the Guardians of the people of Scotland and Saltire, the (probably) immortal Guardian of the Nation, defeat the terrible treat of a Shaman under orders from Cait Sith, who had a deal with the Mercyan king, a cruel, merciless man whose armies threaten the borders of Scotland from the south. We also saw Saltire crumble to the ground, drunk, after one single sip of alcohol. He has a weakness, then. A so very un-Scottish one, too.

This part 2 opens with the Mercyan king desperate to regain the Saxon Helmet of Kings from Cait Sith, who took it from him in exchange for her help to defeat the people of Scotland. As soon as his army attacks a village, however, the Guardians come to the rescue. To their surprise, however, Saltire is not with them, and a Mercyan witch is enough to force them to flee.

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We immediately find out the reason for Saltire’s absence: he is still drunk. Yes, the immortal Guardian of Scotland has been (temporarily?) defeated by alcohol. Very symbolic of the Scottish nation itself, I suppose.

As Scotland faces once more its fiercest foe, will the Guardians be able to defeat him without Saltire’s help? Or will they need to try to wake him up from his drunken stupor? And, if they have to, will they manage?

This is a story about freedom, about life and death, about sacrifice, about standing your ground. The Mercyan king doesn’t want to subdue the people of Scotland – he wants to exterminate them. The Guardians know that they can die (although they will be replaced by another after their death), and still they have to fight.

This time the enemy is, indeed, England. Or at least an English king. We are therefore firmly back into the struggle against “Auld Enemy”. And the Mercyan king is undoubtedly the bad guy: ruthless, merciless, cruel, ready to go to any length in order to conquer Scotland. Then again, the story is told from the side of the Guardians, of Saltire, of the Scots, and it is set in a time when the general vision of the situation was not so different from the one depicted in Saltire Annihilation.

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The story is compelling. The action kicks in straight away, and is relentless; some slightly comical moments (drunken Saltire is quite funny) ease the tension here and there, but this part 2 of Saltire Annihilation is mostly an action comic. But the action in it is not an old fashioned mindless superhero battle: there are feelings, fear, desperation, hope, grief. And drunken Saltire. The fragmentation that I had pointed out reviewing part 1 has completely gone, replaced by solid, strong, fluid storytelling.

The art is once again top notch. It doesn’t only show what is happening, like any illustration does, but it also suggests very clearly the feeling of each character, down to the unnamed soldiers dying during the battle scenes, and the general atmosphere, from the frenzy of the fight scenes to the puzzlement in occasion of supernatural events.

If you read and appreciated Saltire Annihilation part 1, well, this second part is even stronger; if you haven’t read it, you can perfectly understand all the events in part 2 without necessarily having to read the first volume – although I advise you to. If you are English, don’t worry: Saltire Annihilation will not make you feel bad or guilty, and will not insult your nationality. Give it a try. You’ll enjoy it.

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