Few comics can seek to rewrite history with such love and devotion as this latest tale by Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby. Robbie Burns, Witch Hunter takes the idea that the Ploughman’s Poet’s 224-line epic Tam O’Shanter is a retelling of Burns’ own experiences one night in Alloway and runs with it spectacularly.
This is a comic that not only shows off Rennie and Beeby’s ability to mix the real with the fantastic but also their skillfull mastery of pace and timing. The story builds slowly to a head, then lets the pace drop so more tension and excitement can build for an amazing climax. Add into this some excellent re-purposing of Burns’ own poems and what you are left with is a thoroughly enjoyable story.
The comic is split into four acts, covering the three days Burns has left to live before the creatures of hell come to claim his soul plus the aftermath of his final confrontation to them. This makes for four excellent points to put the book down if you want to pace yourself while reading it. If you can do that, you’ve got more willpower than me – I couldn’t put it down. This reads like watching a film: you get yourself settled in and don’t want to move until the final page is turned and the credits roll.
Tiernen Trevallion has done excellent work with the visuals. There is a real sense of the grotesque in the hell beasts appearances. The changes people undergo from human temptresses to hideous devils is at times subtle and at times simply chilling. The level of detail is impressive, too – there’s not a panel where this does not feel like a world you could step right into, if you dared.
Some of the art is a little reminiscent of the original version of The Wicker Man, where naked witches cavorting around a fire are portrayed for their eerie, creepy qualities rather than for titillation. The same is true here. There are naked women and women presented as temptresses to the notoriously lady-loving Burns but in each case the women are drawn less for fan service and more to maintain the tense atmosphere of danger the story is building so expertly. This is truly excellent stuff.
If you’re looking for high-octane action with an historical twist, you can’t go wrong with this book. Rennie and Beeby have crafted a story that expertly mixes the fear of the supernatural in post-Witchcraft trials Scotland with one of Burns’ most-loved supernatural poems. Trevallion’s excellent, highly atmospheric artwork is the icing on the cake.
Read it, you won’t be disappointed.
Robbie Burns, Witch Hunter (script: Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby, art: Tiernen Trevallion, lettering: Jim Campbell) is released by Renegade Arts Entertainment on Monday 24 November. Visit their website for more details.