Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #191 by Drew Barth
Cú Chulainn is one of the most well-known Irish hero myths with his image making many appearances throughout the country as a symbol of Irish independence and solidarity. And while he has appeared in various comics in the past, both from Marvel and 2000AD, the eight year labor of love from Paul J. Bolger, Barry Devlin, and Dee Cunniffee is the closest to capturing the spirit of the original myths with their tome, Hound.
Hound is another retelling of the myth of Cú Chulainn, but this one weaves more of the mythology of Morrigan into the story as well. From a young age, Sétana was influenced by Morrigan, so much so that the violent tendencies that would make him one of the fiercest warriors in Owen Maha started to appear early. She would infect his mind with violent and terrifying images, so much so that he would lash out at other children. But it was this violence that earned him the name Cú Chulainn, as his killing of the guard dog of Culann would lead to his training to be a warrior. But while the original myths show Morrigan as the bearer of and witness to the prophecy of Cú Chulainn’s death, Hound paints her instead as a grand architect of his downfall—orchestrating his breaking of the taboos that would ultimately lead to his death tied to a standing stone.
Hound is a case of mythology in comics that feels mythic on its own. Beginning its original production in 2014, Bolger, Devlin, and Cunniffe have brought into this world a tome that fits the expansive nature of Cú Chulainn’s mythology. But what’s most striking here are the visuals themselves. Told in a stark black and white, we can appreciate the fine detail and flowing movement on every page—even more so when red is added for emphasis. And that red feels like an explosion on every page. While it isn’t utilized often, it draws the eye straight to where the action is happening, or where Morrigan is manipulating someone, and acts as a fulcrum point on the page for those heavier pages. Red here allows for a balance between the violence and those quiet moments where Cú Chulainn is jut allowed to sit and be a person before the fighting starts again.
Hound feels like it’s told an entire myth cycle in just under five hundred pages, but also feels like it’s just beginning to scratch the surface of one of the most important myths in Ireland and one of the most significant hero myths globally. As a retelling, Hound opens itself up to a broad audience hungry for mythological tales, with some of the best pen-and-ink pages in the medium.
Get excited. Get hounded.