Review – Saltire: Immortal Guardian

saltirePublisher: Diamondsteel Comics
Writer: John Ferguson
Artist(s): Tone Julskjaer, Gary Welsh, Claire Roe, Lauren Knight
Release Date: 30th November, 2015

Released, somewhat fittingly, on St. Andrews Day, Immortal Guardian is a 200 -page A4 collection of Diamondsteel Comics’ previously released Saltire graphic novels. The collection also features 30 pages of additional material, including a brand new prequel story, making it essential buying for any Saltire completists as well as newcomers to the character.

With Saltire going from strength to strength in the two years since the character’s inception, we though this would be a perfect time to look back at our reviews of the previous chapters, highlighting some key points about the series and looking forward to its future.

So sit back, relax, and let us introduce you to the world of “Big Blue”.

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Click to enlarge.

REVIEW – Saltire: Invasion [CLICK TO READ]

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.”

“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.

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Click to enlarge.

REVIEW – Saltire: Annihilation (part 1) [CLICK TO READ]

As impressed as I was with the artwork of Julskjaer and Welsh in my review of Saltire: Invasion, Fife newcomer (to me, at least) Claire Rowe provides a whole new aesthetic here with a darker, grittier style that I feel actually works better in conveying the fantasy horror vibe. This is a very dark book visually, with lots of shadow and shading (hell, it is the dark ages after all) and a claustrophobic feel to some of the panels that perfectly mimics the tension and drama of the story itself.

The overall story here is far stronger than in Invasion however, with a far more compelling enemy for Saltire and the other guardians to unite against. While the Romans in the previous book were an easily identifiable and accessible enemy, they did feel somewhat generic and more like a means to an end (the creation of Saltire himself) than a legitimate threat. Well, I can confirm that is certainly not the case here as Ferguson unleashes the absolutely inspired horror creation that is Ban Sith upon the people of Scotland – and what a creation she is. Sadistic, malevolent and seemingly unstoppable, she cuts a swath through the Scottish countryside, swelling her ranks as she spreads her curse throughout the nation’s helpless inhabitants. Rowe and Knight absolutely knock it out of the park with Ban Sith, too, providing a truly memorable adversary – all fangs and glares and razor sharp talons.

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Click to enlarge.

REVIEW – Saltire: Annihilation (part 2) [CLICK TO READ]

The crackling energy of its artwork undoubtedly remains Saltire’s strongest point, with artist Claire Roe providing a dynamic, visually engaging world with more than a few flashes of Rafael Albuquerque in her style – no bad thing, I’m sure you’ll agree. Lauren Knight adds depth with her colours, managing to avoid some of the rare occasions of harshness that we saw in part one. The character design is strong, and the frequent skirmishes are rendered with a fluid grace that manages to keep things flowing smoothly, even when the bodies and blades start flying. Saltire is a series that relies heavily on its visuals, with bold, larger-than-life characters and dramatic, emotional situations aplenty. Thankfully, the artistic team prove once again to be more than up to the task, tackling both the natural and the supernatural with grace and flair.

Overall, while its impact is going to be far greater from the point of view of Scots who finally have their own superhero to look up to, Saltire is still an engaging, dynamic slice of swords and sorcery fiction, and should appeal to readers all around the world. The creative team are coming together impressively, with the quality improving with every subsequent release, and while a knowledge of the previous chapters would certainly be a bonus, it’s certainly not a prerequisite at this point. Onwards and upwards for the team at Diamondsteel then, and I can’t wait to see where they take this renewed confidence next.

Saltire: Immortal Guardian is available from the Diamondsteel Comics online store, priced just £19.99.

The writer of this piece was: 576682_510764502303144_947146289_nCraig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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