21st Jun2017

Graphic Novel Review: ‘Warhammer 40K: Will of Iron’

by Richard Axtell

Written by George Mann | Art by Tazio Bettin | Colour by Erica Erin Angiolini | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 112pp

Warhammer_40000_Vol_01_Will_of_Iron_Cover

After a thousand years of warp storms, the Calaphrax Cluster has re-opened to the universe, and Baltus and his fellow Dark Angel Space Marines join a strike force sent to explore and secure the region, in search of forgotten artefacts and ancient technology! But the forces of Chaos are never far away… and a shameful Dark Angels secret from the Horus Heresy soon leads to a new front in the war!

Ahh, Warhammer 40000. I remember you from my youth. Hours spent painstakingly painting and arranging little figurines on my desk so I could make shooty noises out of the corner of my mouth and stare at them proudly.

What? Game? There’s a game?

Anyway, onto the comic. This volume comes from Titan and collects the first four issues of the series under the title of Will of Iron. There are plenty of opportunities to make shooty noises out of the corner of your mouth throughout because as we all know: in the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

It’s not the destination, however, but the journey that really shines through in this volume.

The artwork, by Tazio Bettin, has some very impactful moments throughout. Made even more stunning by colourist Erica Erin Angiolini, there are a few pages where I just stopped to gape at the beautiful space vistas that these two have managed to bring alive. In fact, if it had been a comic comprised entirely of dramatic space landscapes, I would have been happy (but maybe a little bored). Luckily, we also get some well envisioned characters and action sequences as well.

On the story side, it’s written by George Mann. In our review of the first issue by Dean Fuller, he mentions how the story is not really for people new to Warhammer 40k or the surrounding universe. For this first volume, that description still stands true. I get that Space Marines don’t like Chaos Space Marines because of reasons and the Chaos Marines are probably the bad guys because they are uglier and wear black (possibly because it’s slimming?) but, beyond that, I don’t have much of an in depth knowledge myself. I mean, why can’t they all just get along?

I also realised, on the my third read through of the volume, that I didn’t know any of the character’s names. At first, I thought it was because they had names like Inquisitor Sabbethiel, Interregator-Chaplain Altheous, and Master Seraphus, which are long and complicated and refuse to stay in my brain. But on a fourth read through, I came to the conclusion that character development is on the weaker side.

Inquisitor Sabbethiel (just writing that name is a pain) and her motley crew are by far the most interesting group in the volume, but they are just teased at. Who are they? Why are they following them? They are also the most varied bunch of characters in the comic, providing a stark contrast to the faceless space marines and armies who shoot at each other for the rest of the issue. Maybe a bit more character time and less epic battles might have balanced it out, but an argument could be made that you don’t buy a ‘Warhammer’ comic for the emotional journey. Pew pew pew!

All in all, not a terrible volume. If you’re a 40k fan, and have the lore down, or are looking for a fast-paced, action-filled read this might be one worth checking out. But for the uninitiated or a random passer-by? Maybe not quite your cup of tea.

***½  3.5/5

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