I'm always glad to see someone take the Ancient Romans to task for being assholes. Nobody likes the Romans. They may not be as bad as, say, the Dutch, but if anyone ever needed to be taken down a peg, it's the Romans, with their "aqueducts" and their "arches" and their "Julian calendar."
The Death of Caesar (1798) by Vincenzo Camuccini
"Oooh, look at me, I'm Julius Caesar, a bunch of dudes in white and gold linens stabbed me to death underneath a statue of a guy with a tiny dick during a performance of Cats, one of the events that marks the transition of the historical period from Roman Republic into Roman Empire." I mean, come on. In Saltire: Invasion, the Romans are shown to be the bullies they are, and I don't want to spoil it for you, but Saltire, the titular hero of Saltire: Invasion, gives Roman god of war and progressive rock vocalist Mars Volta exactly what he deserves when the two finally face off.
The famous Roman Arches, constructed in Edinburgh, Scotland circa 71 A.D.
Saltire is billed as the first Scottish superhero, because the book takes place way back in the day. See what they did there? Satire is blue, nude, and badass, and he and his team wreak havoc on the Roman invaders, kicking their asses so thoroughly that the Romans put up a wall just to remind themselves not to fuck with Scotland anymore. It's fun and it's action-packed, and for all I know, based on a true story. Either way, if you're a fan of comics like Thor or video games like Skyrim, you should probably check out Saltire - it might be right up your alley. Writer John Ferguson is Scotsman with talent for more than beard-growing, skirt-wearing, and whisky drinking, and he crafts a well-paced and engaging story.
I'm a big fan of the art style here as well, from Tone Julskjaer and Gary Welsh. I don't know if the art is inked this way, or if the colors are laid directly on top of the pencils, but the lines have a rough quality to them that, when combined with the bright but not overly glossy coloring, really helps to sell the historical setting. This is not a sleek, modern story, but one steeped in history, and the lack of overly rendered lighting effects helps to temper the fantasy elements and bring it back down to Earth. I'm a big fan of comics that look like comics, as I mention in pretty much every review I write, and this fits the bill.
Saltire vs. The Mars Volta
Where the book falls off a little bit is in the editing. Clare Ferguson does a good job of making sure the story is efficient and fluid, but she overlooks far too many glaring typos. For instance, right in the introduction to the book, in the inside cover, the word neighbors is spelled incorrectly ("neighbours"). an extraneous letter "u" is added frequently to words where it doesn't belong, and an early speech by General Virillius is marred by a misspelling of the word "civilization" ("civilisation"). I'm not saying these errors ruin the book, but they certainly take the reader out of the narrative, and Diamondsteel Comics might look into a decent spellcheck program.
While Saltire Invasion serves as a nice introduction to this new universe, I feel like the story failed to address some of the most important aspects of Scottish heritage, such as extreme drunkenness. Luckily, the introduction of alcoholic Brode, Guardian of the Lords of the Isles promises that this concept might be explored further in future issues. Did you like Braveheart? Of course you did. So you'll probably enjoy Saltire as well.
Mel Gibson looks pretty good for his age.
You can buy Saltire right now. If your local comic book shop doesn't carry it, you should probably paint yourself blue, walk in there wearing nothing but a kilt, and lop off the head of the clerk. Put it on a spike as a warning to all shops that don't stock this book. Then pick up a copy on Amazon for $14.99.
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