A galaxy-wide Ork invasion that heralds the rebuilding of their lost empire on an even greater scale yet. Political bureaucracy and infighting that paralyses the Imperial response. Secret and possibly traitorous experiments being carried out by the Cult Mechanics. Terra itself directly threatened. A Chapter lost. Entire sectors lost. Possible Chaos interference. The Beast Arises series has it all it seems. The previous four novels have been rather revolutionary in many ways, and as the story progresses there’s always another big twist just around the corner.
With Guy Haley’s Throneworld, the series marks the third straight novel which is among some of the best works to come out of Black Library in the past five years. I’ve read a fair number of novels from Guy Haley and he’s always impressed me with his narrative styles and his plot twists. That all holds true for Throneworld as well, in which we see the Eldar themselves getting involved with the Ork-Imperium conflict, even as the larger narrative progresses well beyond the weirdness happening on Terra, for the stalwart sons of Dorn have managed to consolidate their power and beginning anew their campaign against the Orks.
Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.
We are now getting to the point where the series is starting to pick up some momentum. The first three novels have laid out the conflict and we now are starting to see some real movement every which way. Leading up to the fourth novel in the series, we are now in that particular mode where you can start to predict how certain characters are going to react to certain situations and that anticipation is what is driving this series more than anything else because in the meta-sense, these characters and their strife really do leave a mark.
David Annandale’s The Last Wall had a lot to deliver on, given how Gav Thorpe ended The Emperor Expects. It was certainly a very unexpected ending, and the questions that it raised got me to push through this novel, finishing it in less than a day, as the clock counts. It is full of some amazing action and tons of intrigue all of which deepens the mysteries behind the resurgent Ork threat and I feel that it is a great addition to the series as a result. David definitely didn’t disappoint in any way.
Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.
The first two novels in the Beast Arises series proved themselves to be a good introduction to an Imperium that is drawn into a massive galactic conflict against the resurgent Ork threat some 1500 years after the Heresy and after the Emperor broke the Orks in the Ullanor Crusade. With Dan Abnett’s I Am Slaughter we met a lot of the early players and with Rob Sanders’ Predator, Prey we saw their narratives develop even as more characters were added and the story increased vastly in scope.
Gav Thorpe’s novel The Emperor Expects is the third in the series and definitely the best novel so far. Both Dan and Rob are very good at depicting big battle scenes, but Gav takes things up a few notches in this novel, not to mention that he also gives us a fantastic naval battle to read about as the Imperial Navy finally take the battle the Orks. Even outside of the set-piece action we have some extremely well-written narratives for all the characters as the politicking on Terra deepens and the Space Marines of various Chapters prepare to respond as well.
Note: Some spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.
The post-Heresy mega project The Beast Arises kicked off with I Am Slaughter by Dan Abnett, telling a fascinating new tale of how a resurgent Ork threat threatens the very foundations of the Imperium. Although we start fairly “low-tech” and the Orks aren’t brought out right until the end, the build-up to that moment certainly kept me glued to the pages, and the novel was a great way to get back into the swing of reading Warhammer 40,000 fiction again, as I’d dropped off some years back.
The next installment in this multi-author series, Predatory, Prey is written by Rob Sanders, who has delivered some of my absolute favourite books of the last decade. The novel continues the story of I Am Slaughter, picking up in the wake of the events that followed therein and sets the stage for the return of the Orks as the biggest threat to the safety of the Imperium since the Heresy. While not the knockout I expected it to be, it was still a spellbinding read that touches on many different facets of the conflict and transitions to the larger conflict.
Note: Some minor spoilers from the previous novel and this novel are mentioned here.
The span of lore material that any novel, or a series for that matter, that is set in the vibrant chaos of the Warhammer 40,000 can cover is immense. There is a history of millenniums involved and Black Library has done a tireless and amazing job over the years of covering as much material as it can, whether we go back to the earliest days of the setting with the Horus Heresy mega-series or the more carefully planned and executed vignettes set in the 41st Millennium. The wonderful diversity, at its heart, is what makes all of this tick for me, and in that respect, the latest series from the publisher has not disappointed.
I Am Slaughter is the first novel in the Beast Arises series and is written by a veteran of the setting entire, Dan Abnett. Over the years, he has given some of the best work in 40K and I Am Slaughter is no slouch by any means. The story begins with the Imperial Fists Space Marines engaging in a massive planetary attack against a verminous xenos species, and it ends in rather surprising ways. As this is the start of the series, much is left to the reader’s imagination, but Abnett teases enough to keep you hooked and reading all the way through, though there are some rather typical missteps by the master.
There haven’t been any “Comics Picks of the Week” articles for a while, and the major reason for that is because I’ve just been too caught up with other stuff and I just can’t be… well bothered. It just takes too much out of my time to keep these titles going, especially when Wednesdays also see me trying to get through two TV shows and doing reviews for them. Though, that situation has kind of abated now.
Anyway, this week’s surprise hits were Batman: Arkham Knight #2 and Gotham Central Book 1 from DC. It was a relatively small week for me since I didn’t read all that many new titles and most of those were middling. Ongoing greats were Django/Zorro #4, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4, Fantastic Four #643 , Inhuman #12, Aquaman #39 , Catwoman #39 , and He-Man: The Eternity War #3 among others .
Battlestar Galactica: Death of Apollo #1 debuted last month, and proved to be quite a fun issue that took the reader back to the classic television series, focusing on the ace pilots Apollo and Starbuck. The core concept of Battlestar Galactica is that the robotic antagonists Cylons wipe out the Twelve Colonies of the Human empire, and so the remnants flee with a ragtag fleet in search of the fabled Thirteenth Colony, Earth. The adventure that Dan Abnett and Dietrich Smith began in the first issue dealt with this on a core level, and also proved to be a rather interesting hook for the story subtitle, Death of Apollo.
Battlestar Galactica: Death of Apollo #2 from last week takes the story further and involves a really big twist towards the end that can totally wrong-foot you. In this issue, we meet a psionic who has apparently “heard” the Thirteenth Colony and knows the precise location of Earth as well. This leads to some pretty obvious moves by the Colonials, and of course, the titular hero gets his moment to shine. It would all have been better had the dialogue been better, and if the art had picked up some of the slack as well.
Last year I did a small roundup over at The Founding Fields with fellow reviewer Bane of Kings which contained a list of the best new comics to have come out in 2013. It was a rather small list with only 10 entries each from the two of us, reflecting our reading for the year and the consequent small pool to pick from. But in 2014, I greatly expanded my weekly reading, and so for the round-up of the best new comics to have come out in 2014, whether as mini-series or ongoings, I have decided to go much bigger.
There were a ton of new comics to come out last year and many of them started off well enough but unfortunately well by wayside since subsequent issues were nowhere near as good. That however, is a call to make on any new comic and you have to have a wait-and-see attitude for the most part. For this embiggened round-up, I have some mini-series here and some ongoing titles. Some have had multiple issues come out in 2014, while some have had less than three.
Irrespective of that, these are all the most promising new series of 2014, and I think that they are all well worth the read in 2015.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
In 2012 we saw the relaunch of the He-Man comics franchise under DC, with a limited series that was also supported by several digital one-shots, most of which have since then been collected into trades. While the relaunch got off to a rough start at first, it quickly picked up steam, leading to DC giving the franchise an ongoing series in mid-2013, a series that culminated a few weeks ago in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #19, though not before we got a new series that took the series forward, He-Man: The Eternity War.
This collection should actually be titled as Volume 2, but DC’s numbering counts the limited-series as volume 1 and volume 2 contains the various origin one-shots that have come out in the last couple years. So everything follows on from there, with Volume 3 containing the first six issues of the ongoing series. In this trade version, collecting issues #7 through #12 of writer Dan Abnett’s run on the title, we find out what happens to our heroes in the wake of the revelations about Despara really being Princess Adora of Eternia, and the fact that with the Sorceress’ death previously, Eternia needs a new guardian. This is where King Randor hits upon the idea of journeying to one of Eternia’s deepest and most mystical realms, and we get a great story about the heroes facing up to some really weird and fantastical challenges.
Note: The trade collection will be released in March this year.
The last week of 2014 and I hit my Magic 40 number. That pleases me immensely. I was hoping I’d be able to make it to this number, and I did, especially with 2 graphic novels in the mix a well!
For this final week of 2014, the surprise hits were: Jungle Book: Fall Of The Wild #1 from Zenescope and Transformers: Drift: Empire of Stone #2 from IDW Publishing. The disappointing comics of the week were Death of Wolverine: The Logan Legacy #7 from Marvel and Secret Origins #8 from DC. The regular greats like Aquaman, Catwoman, Sensation Comics, Secret Avengers, Godzilla: Cataclysm and others struck once again in the final tally.
The graphic novels for this week were Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 3 by Dan Abnett, Pop Mhan, Mark Roberts, Deron Bennett and Stjepan Sejic.
A third straight week this time without me hitting my magic 40 number, which I really regret since a ton of comics have been coming out these last two weeks, but no matter.
Anyway, My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Battlestar Galactica: The Death of Apollo #1 from Dynamite Entertainment, Dredd Uprise #1 from 200AD, and Swamp Thing #35-37 from DC Comics. The most disappointing comics of this week were Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 and Hulk #9 from Marvel Comics. Comics which continued on with a good run yet again were Alien vs. Predator: Fire and Stone #3 , Aliens: Fire and Stone #3, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #5 , Death of Wolverine: The Weapon X Program #3, Inhuman #9, Gotham Academy #3 and Vampirella v2 #7 among others.
No graphic novels this past week unfortunately.