‘You must know something.’
‘You may have made it this far but I will defeat you though little of my life remains to me’
Title: Celtic Warrior The Legend of Cú Chulainn
Creator: Will Sliney
Publisher: O’Brien Press
My very first encounter with Cú Chulainn was aged six – I was in primary school and our teacher was telling us the story of Ireland’s greatest hero. I was completely and totally enthralled, heroes were nothing new to me, I was part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gang in school (I was Donatello!) and I spent my weekends glued to the adventures of Captain Planet and Superman but now there was a hero from my country, but not just any hero, an actual legend!
As a child though my attention span waned and I’d quickly forgotten all about Cú Chulainn, the Red Branch Army and the mythology of Ireland faded from my memory.
That is until now!
Will Sliney and his work ‘Celtic Warrior The Legend of Cú Chulainn’ has brought it all flooding back with a wave of nostalgia, hero worship and beautiful illustrations. Irish artist, Will is perhaps best known for his work on ‘Fearless Defenders’ for Marvel, the Star Wars, Clone Wars comic series as well as his work on the Farscape comic series.
His work on Cú Chulainn began in 2011 and now two years later readers are finally able to immerse themselves in an Ireland many of us, myself included, thought long gone.
The 128 page full colour graphic novel chronicles one of the most well-known stories in Irish folklore, ‘The Brown Bull of Cooley’, our hero Cú Chulainn most defend Ulster and Ireland against the tyrannical Queen Maeve who would use the Bull to assume total control of the country.
While this story may have been forgotten, Sliney doesn’t waste any time throwing you into the deep, the hero tethered to a rock, holding himself up and against the forces of the woman who enchanted an entire nation and its Kings.
Visually the novel is a pure feast, with pages splashed in tanned colours. Cú Chulainn himself is a toned behemoth living up to the legends. Panels are full of intricate details and it’s easy for your eyes to pool over every inch and believe me it’s worth it, Celtic patterns etched into crowns, armour, battlements and doors, patterns in clothing, it’s all these small things that indicate the book is a pure labour of love and it does more than pay off.
There is a gorgeous range of expressions drawn across character faces, from the self-assured smugness of Queen Maeve, to the determination in the eyes of Cú Chulainn himself, the emotions are poured onto the pages and instil the same emotions within the reader.
Browsing shelves of book stores and comic shops your eye will be drawn immediately to the cover of the graphic novel, burnt oranges and browns are painted across the stoic figure of our hero, his eyes focused on his enemy and on the lost faces of those he once called friend, ally and brother.
Sliney takes license when it comes to the retelling of the story and it does no harm to the original instead highlights the natural gift Irish people have for telling or rather retelling their own folklore. Maeve is no mere Queen, she is an Enchantress who used her powers to enslave the hearts of Irish men, forcing them to fight for her, slaying those they called friend and family.
The plot develops quickly without being rushed, Maeve’s pressing desire to capture the Bull and her lust for power serve as an accelerator for the story but her quest and the story are forced to stop and deal with the obstacles and traps laid by Cú Chulainn, but also with the men in her army recalling the life of their enemy. The story is broken up with these flashbacks detailing the origins of Cú Chulainn but also offer insight not only into other characters like Maeve, Fiacha and Cormac but also into a magical and mysterious Ireland lost in modern society.
To put it simply for you, this is a must read for any Irish comic book fan! We have all been swept up with heroes from all over the world, most of us are knowledgeable about the origins of Batman, Superman, Wolverine and Spiderman, we can draw maps of the sprawling metropolises that act as homes to these heroes and we seem to have forgotten or speaking honestly, spurned our own home grown legends.
The pages of Celtic Warrior The Legend of Cú Chulainn serve as not only proof of the talent we have in this country but also act as a beautiful and astounding reminder of the wealth we have in Ireland when it comes to our own history and folklore.
At a time when our country and our people are burdened with the weight of economic turmoil and social injustice, we need something to remind us why Ireland is worth fighting for; Will Sliney has not just created a brilliant graphic novel but he has awoken the hero we all need.
Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!