Warhammer 40,000: Will of Iron #1 (Comics Review)

The fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000 is extremely rich and complicated. Since its inception, this creation of Games Workshop has taken on a life of its own and has spanned a variety of media in the form of movies, comics, novels, audio-dramas, and so on. Some of the best fiction has come with the likes of the Bloodquest comics or the Horus Heresy multi-media series and so on. I’ve been a fan of this setting for almost 15 years or now, and it has certainly been a journey that has had its ups and downs. Will of Iron looks to chart a bold new path forward.

Recently, Titan Comics was granted the license to publish fresh new comics in the 40K universe, and Will of Iron #1 is the first of these new stories that brings the indomitable Space Marines and their various enemies back to comics forefront. Written by George Mann, the new series focuses on one of the most secretive and oldest factions of these space-faring warrior-monks as many of their secrets are about to be exposed and their efforts to contain the spread of such knowledge begin. The first issue is a bit predictable and dry, but it is also very promising and for that I give it a big thumps up.

warhammer_40k_woi_01_cover_b

In the world of 40K, and where the Space Marines of the Dark Angels Chapter are concerned, most stories tend to focus on a key-part of their identity. The warriors of the chapter, whether knowingly or unknowingly are engaged in maintaining a ten-thousand year old secret, a secret that could very well destroy the chapter and its other affiliated brotherhoods, and it makes for some very intriguing stories. Authors like Mitchel Scanlon and Gav Thorpe have delved into the matter with great detail before, especially Gav, and with Will of Iron, George Mann carries that legacy forward.

George is no stranger either to the setting, as he has contributed various works to it before. In Will of Iron #1 there are therefore numerous subtle references to the previous stories even as the writer crafts his own tale. It starts off in a very predictable manner as our heroes embark on their quest while dogged by forces both loyal to the Imperium and those who are not, but it quickly takes on a life of its own. What I really liked about this issue was that George gave us a rough and quick mission statement for our primary characters in the early pages in a way that allowed him to build on the mystique (and even dread) of the big secret that must not come out.

Of course, as someone who has been involved with 40k for more than half my life, I know what this big secret is. But I still felt a thrill as the pages went on. When Lord Azrael, the leader of the Dark Angels, talks to Seraphus and Altheous about the need for secrecy and decisive action, I was excited. The Dark Angels at war are a terrifying sight in written fiction, and the comics medium adds the visual element that has a huge impact on this. The mood is all there, and the effect is undeniable.

We are also introduced to the complex world of the Imperium when we are introduced to Inquisitor Sabbathiel who is investigating the Dark Angels’ secret and becomes involved as well. There is a very complicated history between the Space Marines and the Inquisition, none more so than between the Dark Angels and the Ordo Hereticus, and it was a wonderful touch. Sabbathiel’s fixation on the Dark Angels and the secrets they hide is plain to see, and I loved her character.

Generally, some of the dialogue was a bit over-formal and that really grated on me. There is a balance to be had when writing for Space Marines and when their dialogue is so formal and even, archaic, then it takes away some of the excitement. The story becomes entirely too serious, and that was the big flaw of Will of Iron #1. Some of the scene-shifts were also abrupt and jarring, which didn’t help with the story progression since it all felt disjointed, but it wasn’t as bad as the dialogue really.

The art in this issue is by Tazio Bettin, with colours by Enrica Eren Angiolini and the letters are by Rob Steen. The cover on the link is by the same team, while the cover above (cover B) is by John McCrea and Dee Cunniffe. In general terms, the art is serviceable. There are no particular flourishes to be had and the scenes set out by the internal artists reflect the seriousness of the story and the formality of the characters’ dialogue. There’s no… spice to be had, if you will. And there are a few scenes where some of the characters have indistinct features and such. But, looking past that, the main impressions of the heroes and villains are absolutely nailed. The stories of 40K are very much about fire and brimstone, which the art reflects ably and with gusto. The colours are also very bold and distinctive, which makes the panels pop out and seem that much more real because of the stark contrast between the characters and their surroundings.

And as for the covers, I like them both. They could do with a bit more nuance to them, and the perspectives could certainly be improved upon as well. But they are rough and tough, reflective of the setting they are supposed to depict, and that works for me.

Taking it all together, a good start to the series. Somewhat cautious and “plays it safe”, but I was engaged throughout and that’s what counts more than anything else.

Rating: 7.5/10

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Posted on October 12, 2016, in Comics Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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