The second issue in so many ways is like the second album: will it still be awesome, will it still keep you turning the pages, will its uniqueness have tired or be as strong? These are things which worry me about Roisin Dubh, as I hold and look at it. Sure the production is there, the cover is strong, but the first issue was exemplary of good comics work, and I hope that the standard can remain high.
Of course, I soon have no need to wonder, as my mind is taken away to a historical setting, and I am again immersed into this tale. When we last left Roisin, she was in bed, exhausted after an incredible trauma. Her family had been slain. She herself has travelled to the nether world, where she has learnt of the Abhartach, a dreadful half-dead creature that drains people and makes them his thralls.
Roisin had met Donn and Badh, Lord of the Underworld and Goddess of the Battlefield, who send her back, but they have also bound her to their will through trickery, and armed her with a crow-shaped brooch, a yew sword that will unlock thralls from the Abhartach’s control, and a cloak of invisibility and healing.
We find that this is a fast paced comic, full of action. The brooch comes to life and a crow informs Roisin that duty calls, and there is upset out in the barn of the doctor’s house where she has found refuge, as the dead seem to come back to life. Roisin’s character is very strong and her statement ‘I never faint’ makes me smile broadly. Then we are treated to four pages of thrall slaying action, as Roisin engages with the creatures of the Abhartach, and it’s really smartly rendered, with a great pace.
This unusual event seems to be glossed over by all present, a traditional Irish method of dealing with questionable occurrences, and despite it all, Roisin neatly evades the police questioning. The bravery and fierce blood rising is soon over taken by the numbness, the trauma and realisation of the task, the personal conflict of killing one’s own family.
Of course, I am thinking, wow, Celtic Zombies Slaying Action.
Roisin is reunited her brother and aunt, and returns to Dublin, where her brother looks after affairs, being a lawyer.
The Abhartach itself is ensnared by the magician who brought him back after 1800 years, in a Victorian mansion, but this is where the story really shows its depth and intelligence and gets interesting. Justice Butler, a judge and therefore a man of tremendous power, is involved, and one can see the discrimination of the time come to the fore as he is so patronising when he meets Roisin, describing her with obvious mirth and distaste as brilliantly captured by Byrne as a ‘new woman, on the ‘cusp of a new aeon’.
Roisin has some dreams due to her connection, to the Abhartach, her nemesis, but she allows passion to lead her problems, which seem insurmountable, and Justice Butler seems to have the perfect solution for a thorn in his side, which has may have terrible consequences for Roisin, worse than death in many ways.
Maybe it was because I was listening to Metallica’s ‘Welcome Home Sanatorium’ but I was definitely reading to the beat.
The artwork continues to be pleasing. There are no greys; shadows and outlines are used to great effect, while the detail and accuracy of good faces really helps, while the action flows well. I am now looking forward to seeing how this comic concludes, and wonder what other activities may be in store for Roisin, as she has turned up in League of Volunteers, and with McHugh’s writing, one really feels there is so much more to this character, especially as a reflection of the customs and prejudices of the time, which are so often brushed to one side, as Goths find brown.
Issue one was reviewed by James and can be found here on the blog