Brian Boru and The Battle of Clontarf GN – Rory McConville

3 out of 5

A straight-forward, but effectively told, historical snapshot, covering the last stand of uniting King of Ireland Brian Boru, circa the early 1000s.

This was a refreshing change from the cluttered, and rather messy Big Jim – the other historical comic writer Rory McConville put together. This had a similar sized cast, but McConville keeps it focused – though admittedly the history may more easily lend itself to that – on Boru and his son and brother, Murchadh and Wolf, as they prepare to fend off some rebelling clans who’ve teamed up with the invading Vikings. We don’t necessarily get much insight into Boru beyond whispers amongst his men and foes of his hyped-up past, and his fearsomeness as a warrior, and this also isn’t really a fact checklist concerning The Battle of Clontarf, or any specifics on what worked or didn’t during the fight – it’s moreso cast as a mini dramatic epic, setting the stakes piled high against Boru’s side, and showing – from their point of view – the perseverance that would have them see victory. Artist Deirdre de Barra does a really good job with this, juggling a lot of talking heads and lookalike characters across cinematic panels, and sparing details on a lot of those lookalikes – a handful of long-haired, dirty-blonde men – in favor of making sure we can track the main characters, which we do. The dirtied up colorwork is also a nice touch, but even without that layer, Barra’s use of watercolored blends for backgrounds and pop colors in the foreground works well.

Ultimately, I don’t know that I “learned” very much, and there’s the sense of this being shown through a very particular, Boru-focused lens – i.e. I can’t say whether or not it’s a fair depiction of anyone – but it’s a fun tale, despite it being narration heavy, which isn’t meat to be a slight: to me, that means it’s well written, and well paced.