Publisher: Diamondsteel Comics
Writer: John Ferguson
Artists: Tone Julskjaer, Gary Welsh
Release Date: 27th October 2013
Excitement has been building for quite some time over the release of Saltire from Diamondsteel Comics. The book, based around Scotland’s first comic book superhero, made its official debut at the Dundee Literary Festival last weekend, and we’ve been lucky enough to be given a look at the initial graphic novel release which contains the first two books in the series.
The one thing that initially strikes you about the book is the quality of the artwork. When John Ferguson initially came up with the idea for Saltire, he approached Duncan of Jordanstone Art College in Dundee and, with their assistance, conducted a competition to find himself an art team. And it’s clear right from the start that both Gary Welsh and Tone Julskjaer are clearly perfectly suited to a title like this, eagerly embracing the epic scope of the book in all its forms, from the mythological, supernatural aura that permeates everything to the brutally kinetic action scenes.
One of my niggling doubts when I first heard about this title was the fear that it could potentially turn into a piece of brainless, chest-thumping, pro-Scotland fluff. Thankfully however, that couldn’t be further from the case, as Ferguson has clearly done some exhaustive research to create a fully realised world complete with an extensive pseudo-history that intertwines real events with familiar Scottish folk tales. While there is clearly a pride in the Scottish heritage, it never becomes tacky or overdone, and the creativity on display – particularly in the gathering of the champions from each of the clans – is difficult not to be impressed by, with Welsh and Julskajer once again rising to the occasion in bringing this diverse cast of characters to life in a series of beautifully rendered splash pages.
The first two books each have a very different feel to them, with the first focusing on the clans being forced to summon legendary protector Saltire to defend them against the invading Ninth Legion of Rome, and the second focusing on the initial genesis of Saltire and his resulting journey to visit the clans responsible for his creation. These distinctive tones work extremely well to counterbalance one another, with the energetic, dramatic showdown with the Roman legion contrasting beautifully with the more thoughtful, almost poetic journey of the newly-formed protector.
The book has some great touches, from the aforementioned clan champions to the variety of mythological creatures on display, to – in a few choice moments – the dialogue of Saltire himself. Having a supernatural Scottish protector exclaiming “Come ahead!” or “I’m gonna have you!” just flat-out worked for me, and again served as a terrific contrast to the old-style dialogue that makes up the rest of the comic.
The groundwork has been laid here for what has the potential to be a sprawling, truly epic tale, and that’s clearly the intent of creator Ferguson who has made no secret of his desire to have Saltire become a “Scottish competitor to Batman and Spiderman”. And with the creative team he has in place, along with his clear passion for the subject matter, that dream may not be as far-fetched as it initially sounds.
You can buy the first Graphic Novel here from Diamondsteel Comics’ online store, or from your local comic shop while stocks last.
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson (aka Ceej)
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