Warhammer 40,000 #1 “Will Of Iron”
The Warhammer 40,000 universe is one of the greatest creations of modern British genre fiction. It’s also, brilliantly, one of those things that’s grown fairly organically. What was once the background for a wargame is now a universe that takes in multiple wargames, multiple RPGs, a vast amount of books and now, once again, comics.
Writer George Mann does the most sensible thing possible; it ignores the huge overall universe and focuses on a single battle and the consequences it had for everyone involved. The Calaphrax Campaign was a horrific clash between two Space Marine Chapters that left both, the Iron Swords and the Dark Angels, in tatters. The Iron Warriors had been corrupted by chaos but, even though the Dark Angels were victorious a cloud has settled over the Order for centuries. Now, Baltus, a newly promoted Space Marine finds himself at the forefront of a campaign that may redeem, or damn, his order forever. But he’s not alone. Inquisitor Sabbathiel is convinced Calaphrax is the evidence she needs to confirm the Dark Angels are corrupted…
Mann’s script is incident heavy, has the exact amount of angry metallic shoulder-padded war machines you want but never loses sight of its characters. Baltus is a likeable if dour leading man but Sabbathiel steals the show. An imposing but distinctly human figure, she and her individualistic team are the most interesting element of the book and we look forward to seeing where they fit in. Especially given the excellent last-page twist that Mann springs on us.
The script is confident, incident-heavy and action-packed. And, with Tazio Bettin, it’s illustrated exactly as it needs to be. Bettin’s style is precise and burly, giving the Marines the weight they need. Bettin’s also got a great eye for the gothic monstrosities that the Marines travel through space in and the book has a real sense of scale that really helps ground the action. That’s helped even more by the measured and precise lettering from Rob Steen and Enrica Eren Angiolini’s muted and atmospheric colours.
“Will Of Iron” is a four-part mini-series and, hopefully, just the beginning of the Warhammer 40,000 universe’s return to comics. Because based on this politically complicated, action-heavy and excellently realised book, it’s a medium that suits Warhammer 40,000 down to its angry, metallic boots.
Review by Alasdair Stuart