Sunday, November 15, 2020

Comics Commentary: Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar #1-2


Unscripted, unedited. Just a guy talking about comics.

Transcript below...

I'm here today to talk to you about two issues of a new Warhammer 40,000 miniseries published by Marvel called Marneus Calgar. It just recently started coming out; the first issue is dated December. It's a new Warhammer tie-in comic or licensed comic put out by Marvel. These first two issues were written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Jacen Burrows, and the second cover has really nice artwork by James Stokoe. I believe that he will also draw the next issue’s cover.

It's an interesting comic to follow up the D&D comics from yesterday. If you're not familiar with Warhammer, it's a miniatures war game made by Games Workshop out of the UK. It's been around since the ‘80s, and there have been various games over the years, but there's two main stripes. There's their fantasy game, Warhammer Fantasy, or just Warhammer ,and then Warhammer 40,000, or Warhammer 40K, as some players call it—which is the science fiction game.

It's not rooted in actual history, so it is totally just a fantastic, fictional game, but it is a miniatures war game. Over the years, they've had a large number of tie-in novels published related to the game, and they've also had a number of comics—but not many major comics. Black Library, which is the publishing imprint for Games Workshop, did a 63- or 64-issue run of something called Warhammer Monthly from, like, 1998 to 2003, but then otherwise there have just been miniseries here and there published by Boom! Studios or Titan Comics, which does a lot of tie-in comics, including Doctor Who, currently.

So there have not been a lot of major comics related to Warhammer other than the Warhammer Monthly series, which was pretty much like 2000 AD. It was an anthology book, had a number of different story lines taking place in the various Warhammer worlds, and introduced some new talent—both writers as well as artists—much like 2000 AD and other British anthology comics did. Like Eagle and Action did back in the day. 

This comic published by Marvel is probably the biggest tie-in comic that Warhammer has ever done. It's an interesting time for it to be coming out because there's a new edition of Warhammer out not too long ago (I believe it's the ninth edition), and there's a relatively new edition of the Warhammer roleplaying game as well as the Warhammer 40K roleplaying game. Those are licensed games, and the fantasy RPG was published by Cubicle 7.

The comic is interesting in terms of timing as well as scale because the visibility that this will get Warhammer is perhaps larger than it would normally get. But how is it as a comic? It is not bad. Burrows’s art is is pretty cool, and there are moments in the book like this two-page spread in the first issue where he actually gets some scale and scope that's relatively cool. The story is also interesting. It's about Marneus Calgar, who's chapter master for the Ultramarines, which is kind of the elite, “good” fighting force for the Emperor in the Warhammer 40K realm.

He's returning to a planet called Nova Thulium, where he was actually initially trained as a youth when he first started his journey to become an Ultramarine. It's a combination of their return to the planet, their combat and fight with the heretics who are currently holding the planet down, and flashback to his childhood, his training, and development on Nova Thulium.

There's quite a bit of pretty well-handled exposition. It doesn't go into the exposition like the miniature wargame rule books do in terms of who the Emperor is and stuff like that. There's a relatively brief synopsis introduction like they do in the front of most Marvel comics these days to let you know what's what, and then there's occasionally stuff like a map of the star system or the solar system to see where this particular planet fits in. There's a little data sheet about the planet, so it does situate you and ground you in the world as well as tell the story.

The story is interesting. The current time stuff isn't so interesting, but the flashback to his childhood and his development is probably the most interesting stuff in the comic. It doesn't really go where you think it's going to go. I had a sense as a reader where I thought it was going to go, and then there's kind of a twist so there's a neat turn there. It'll be interesting to see where it goes from here. I don't think there are too many issues left—maybe even just one—so i'm not too sure how much further the story will go

If Marneus Calgar is a character in Warhammer 40K, this is a decent backstory and introduction to his origin. Also of interest in the comic is how many marketing placements or mentions there are for Warhammer-related stuff. There's an ad for some McFarlane Toys licensed character toys, including an unpainted one very similar to the actual miniatures in the game. There's a number of video game-related ads in the comic, as well: Warhammer Combat Cards, which is a mobile game. There's an ad for the current Starter Set for the current edition. Then in the second issue we've got a cool console game for Total War. We have another console game for Mechanicus. We have an ad for a tie-in novel. “Start your Warhammer 40,000 reading journey here,” that ad says. Another ad says “Great first reads”—additional tie-in novels coming from Black Library. There's another ad for a Necromunda console game, Underhive Wars

The comic is very much a tent pole to bring Warhammer to a new audience, and that's interesting as a comic—the biggest licensed comic that they've done, as far as I know, other than Boom! Studios and Titan Comics. It’s a first with Marvel and has decent art, relatively decent story, lots of ads for Games Workshop. I'm actually kind of curious what the licensing arrangement was because this is almost like a Games Workshop house organ. It might as well be an issue of White Dwarf if you think about it. But it’s an interesting comic that reads relatively well. That's one thing that they've done well with the Warhammer miniatures world: The story, lore, and legend around it—and the fiction around it—is relatively rich and interesting. There's plenty to work with.

If you're not familiar with Warhammer but you like science fiction or futuristic military stuff, be sure to check it out. The art for the cover of #2 and the cover image for #3 are by James Stokoe. There’s some interesting styling there for Warhammer, which opens up the opportunity for perhaps even additional independent artists. There's a lot of directions that this could go.

No comments: