Brandon Borzelli’s Geek Goggle Reviews
Warhammer 40,000 Damnation Crusade Trade Paperback
Abnett, Edginton, Boychuk, Antonio, Ringuet & Dukeshire
I had never heard of Warhammer outside of reading about it once in while in solicitation articles. I couldn’t tell you if it was a novel based idea, movie based, a video game or strictly a comic based concept. Given the opportunity to review the trade paperback for this six issue series I figured this was an easy way to find out what Warhammer was all about. I was not disappointed.
Warhammer is basically a science-fiction war comic. The race of men have an emperor whom they fight in the name of by finding and killing mutants, rebels, freaks and just about anything else in the way. We follow the story of the elite army, the space marines, the Black Templar. These are hand selected men who, even after being chosen, must undertake a series of tests (including surgeries) that seem to last centuries before becoming one of the brotherhood.
The concept is interesting, but I had my predetermined notions after reading the leading paragraphs. I figured that this was a typical sword and sorcery comic where maybe one elite soldier becomes the chosen one to oppose the emperor or perhaps rescue the emperor’s daughter or something like that. I was wrong. This is not a sword and sorcery comic at all. You never see the emperor, despite the fact that his name is mentioned almost every other page. There is no love story. There is no rescue. There is no ring of power, sword in the stone or special crystal. These are six issues of battles – war. Period.
The story centers around the warriors. The characters that are followed aren’t generals or would-be kings. They are the ones doing the fighting. They aren’t grunts, they are among the elite, but still just soldiers. My assumption was they would probably all get slaughtered in the end maybe in some type of “homecoming” a la Das Boot. The comic provided a surprise ending with a nice dovetail to bring many of the characters together.
The story has only a few main characters. One of them, Raclaw, is followed from his initial “recruitment” up through the ranks. He has a mentor, Brunner, who brings him in and watches over his rookie stages. Raclaw, despite the reconditioning, can still remember who he was and how he was changed.
Another main character is Gerhart. He is already on the fronts from the opening of the story. He fights with passion. So much so that his duty is questioned. Has he become poisoned with his own quest for righteousness and glory? Those in his platoon question him, his marshal, his chaplain and eventually himself.
Finally we have Tankred. He, or it, is one giant box. He looks like a series of squares piled on top of each other. Yet, in some way he lives. He has caretakers that talk to him when he needs healing. They wake him when is needed for battle and they transport him when he needs to enter a battle. He is a special kind of warrior and requires special handling. He apparently is capable of sleeping to the point of making Rip Van Winkle look like a Type A personality. He is, it seems, the atomic bomb on any battlefield once he is called in.
We follow each to see how war impacts them and they react to it. All along we hear about the emperor and their faith in him. There is Arthurian quality at work here right down to the cross on their armor. It’s a strange mix of “religion” and duty.
The art is fantastic. I was taken aback at how brilliant the battlefields were depicted. They capture that image of dark, drab, dirty wastelands a battle field might have after decades or centuries of fighting on. Despite the fact that it’s a war we can still make out the faces of the important characters without blatant brightening of the pages. All that and the battles aren’t in-your-face gory. Add it all up and feels very real. It gives off the impression that there are no “good guys”. In some ways I felt like each battle should just end up with everyone dead. My personal favorite piece of art is the chaplain who looks like Skeletor from He-Man, only to remove his skeleton mask to reveal a head so grotesque that it made Darth Vader’s under-the-hood look pretty.
The downside? First off, as a trade paperback I want some extras. Maybe a breakdown of the weapons used with sketches or something. I would have also liked a little bit more on the villains. Some of them were hardly introduced. I like a little more info about the players that get wiped out in two pages, even if you have to stuff in the back of the trade. Lastly, the timeline captions messed me up. I felt like I needed to keep track of all that “thirteen years before….” And I really didn’t.
Beyond that this was a great twist on space, war, sword and aliens. It’s worth a read if you like any of those genres.
4 out of 5 geek goggles.