Advance review: Saltire Annihilation part 1

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

Saltire Annihilation starts with the Angles and the Saxons temporarily pushed back behind the Wall, and the Guardians of the various peoples of Scotland meeting to agree on their next move. But there’s something much more dangerous than the warriors under the Mercyan’s rule lurking in the shadows. Only Saltire can – probably – do something to help his people.

In a way, this is (still) an origin story. We understand that Saltire is more or less immortal (or at least he doesn’t age), and that the Guardians are something similar to Neil Gaiman’s Endless – concepts that may (or may not) change face and aspect according to the times and situations. We see how Saltire and the Guardians cope with the most dangerous threat Scotland has ever faced and we get an idea of how their relationships are.

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But there’s more. There’s the blood, the battles, but also the mercy, the mutual support, the friendship (or rather, the blood pacts), the honour. And, sure, there’s some pretty blatant patriotic rhetoric. But at least the enemy is not England… or at least the English, while still being “the bad guys”, are just a minor threat – or so they seem anyway, compared to the main villain of this story.

Saltire is touted as the first Scottish super-hero. Sure, there have been some super-heroes from Scotland in the history of comics (just to stick with Marvel, the first – and only – one I could think about is the mutant Rahne Sinclair, better known as Wolfsbane), but Saltire is the first one that pretty much identifies with the country itself. In a way, he is Scotland. I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost his powers leaving the country, although this hasn’t been dealt with in the comic (yet). He’s a slightly unusual kind of super-hero, as we’re used to see the supers saving the world in the twentieth century at the earliest, but he definitely is one. Actually, he’s the strongest and best of them.

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Now, on to the more “technical” side. The dialogues are very well written, with some virtuoso performances every time Talorgan speaks (read the book and you’ll see what I mean), but the story is a little too fragmented, with scenes following each other with no apparent link to each other. Sure, there is indeed a link, but we find out only well into the story. Up to that point, the reader risks some confusion. Further on, when all the subplots are brought together, the action remains frantic, with the focus shifting from one character to another in a very cinematic way – that might end up being, once again, slightly off-putting in a comic book.

The art is perfectly fitting to the story: in the quieter moments, it’s quite accurate and full of details (but not so full to distract from the flow); when the scene gets frantic the art follows suit, with the figures represented suggesting movement and action.

All in all, a pretty interesting comic, with some rough edges but nothing “worrying”, definitely nothing that could suggest me to advise against reading it.

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