Sláine: Kiss My Axe! is the brand new skirmish tabletop miniatures game, set in the world of Sláine – out this week from Warlord Games! Based on the legendary comic book by Pat Mills and Angela Kincaid, axes and swords clash whilst Earth and Sour magic lash out across the Land of the Young, as the Earth Tribes of the goddess Danu battle the decaying Drune Lords and the relentless Fomorian Sea Demons.
Newcomers lured into the historical, myth-filled lands of Sláine by this new game might be forgiven for being overwhelmed by the expansive fantasy realm suddenly available for exploration. With all of Tir-Nan-Og open to them, and the conflict between the Earth Tribes and demonic forces at play, perhaps it’s time to learn some important backstory.
And here are five of the best collections in which to find it:
This first collection, which features the first ten stories ever published for the strip, is essential reading when it comes to diving into the mythical world of Sláine.
Setting the stage for decades to come, Tir Nan Og (“the Land of the Young”) is a violent, malicious place where the Earth Tribes worship their gods and fight amongst each other. Among those tribes are the Sessair — the bravest and most skilled warriors of all of the tribes; but none so skilled as the young and arrogant barbarian by the name of Sláine MacRoth. This first collection sees Sláine, newly banished from the tribe, discovering the horrors of the world alongside his dwarf companion Ukko, including dragons, the wrath of a scorned druness, a burning wicker man, sky chariots, and the introduction of none other than the evil Lord Weird Slough Feg.
Written by Pat Mills and illustrated by a host of incredible and iconic artists (including Angie Kincaid, Ace Trucking Co.’s Massimo Bellardinelli, and The Last American’s Mick McMahon), the classic tales of Sláine’s origin not only offer a look back at the story’s humble beginning, but act as a cornerstone for everything awaiting down the line.
Concluding stories found in the second collection in the series, Time Killer, Sláine The King looks deeper into the depths and breadths of Mills’ worldbuilding when it comes to Tir-Nan-Og and its tribal inhabitants. With Sláine and Ukko now travelling with a druidess named Nest, the group finds itself heading back to the Slaine’s tribe, the Sessair, who are now under the thumb of conquerors from the North. After a ritual that chooses Sláine above all else to rule as King, he prepares his people for the battles ahead, ridding their land and their people of their oppressive invaders.
With Glenn Fabry, David Pugh, and Mike Collins at the artistic helm, the story is anything but slow-moving. Accompanied by Mills’ skilled mixture of fantasy and Celtic lore, the gods and goddesses — good, bad, and everything in between — are further fleshed out and present in such a way that makes the world in which we know Sláine to be a part of just that much more real as a reader.
Above all else, Sláine: The Horned God is still, nearly 30 years later, regarded as one of the most impressive and masterful works of British comics — and for good reason! Fully painted by artist Simon Bisley in a way that can only be described as awe-inspiring through a combination of kinetic photo-realism and exaggerated perspective, The Horned God has the wonderful benefit of standing alone in all its glory while not requiring its readers to have prior knowledge of the Sláine back catalogue.
Originally spanning three volumes, this Sláine collection is true fantasy from start to end, with Slaine first overcoming the Formian sea demons threatening Tir-Nan-Og and the Earth Goddess; only to face his greatest challenge that, if successful, would give him control of nature itself and become the new Horned God — a prominent figure among Gaulish and Irish mythology.
Far beyond the previous stories of fighting dragons or escaping death at the hands of a simple foe, The Horned God broadens the cast of Sláine characters — including its villains— into something larger than life and utterly engrossing. To say you should read The Horned God may be a misnomer, as many would agree that it’s not so much a book to be read, but one to be experienced.
Demon Killer sees Pat Mills taking Sláine in an entirely unexpected direction, as Earth Goddess Danu sends the hero through time to defend the future Tir-Nan-Og – or Ireland, as we know it – from the threat of Roman invasion, with his old foe Elfric leading the charge on behalf of Caesar. Reinventing the strip while maintaining the magic of what came before, Demon Killer is a bold step that broadens the definition of just what Sláine could be, even as it similarly expands the appeal of the strip to readers of all kinds.
Mills doesn’t manage this amazing trick alone, of course; he’s aided by a rogues gallery of some of 2000 AD’s greatest artists in the process, with Glenn Fabry, Dermot Power, Judge Dredd’s Greg Staples, and even V for Vendetta co-creator David Lloyd all providing breathtaking fully-painted artwork on this time-bending trip that rewrites history to make it that much more exciting – and far more filled with gods, demons, and axe-centric carnage, as well. Destruction on this kind of mythical scale has rarely looked better.
In a way that feels almost a little too timely, the collection of Sláine: Dragontamer is at heart a story about rebellion and pushing back against oppression. Delving into new parts of history previously left untapped within the ever-expanding Sláine universe, Mills continues to stretch the reign of Sláine across the European map in a way that feels like fierce and fantastical alternate folklore, made possible by artist Leonardo Manco, whose line-work and attention to detail brings dynamic new life to the stories of old.
Now facing off against the Trojans, it’s up to Sláine to lead the revolt against the tyrannical Emperor Brutus, whose rule over the people of Albion (which is to say, Britain) has gone on far too long. After traveling to New Troy with his companions and bringing the fight to Brutus’ door, Sláine discovers — after dealing with both fire breathing dragons and a dungeon filled with unspeakable secrets — that Brutus’ plague of terror is far worse than even he imagined.