Remember the golden year of 2005 when Relic Entertainment unleashed the phenomenon that was Dawn of War? I do! As a fan of the comics and novels for several years, Dawn of War was the perfect game for me for a number of reasons: I love RTS games, I love Warhammer 40,000, and their love-child was definitely going to be great. That was my working theory when I started playing Dawn of War and I was floored. Everything about the game, whether cutscenes or story or mechanics or gameplay or design or whatever, it was all top-notch. One of the most cathartic gaming experiences of my life. The games that followed, especially Dawn of War II: Dark Crusade just improved on that and I couldn’t be happier really. If there was any sore spot at all however, the tie-in novels from writer C. S. Goto were the anomaly. Tortorous and convoluted stories that seemed to do strange things with the lore, they are among the most unpopular of novels published by Black Library to date. But that’s all going to change, and here’s why.
Exactly five months to the day, Relic Entertainment announced that it was working on Dawn of War III and released the above trailer to the masses, causing a storm in the video game circles everywhere. The previous games are regarded highly, are considered among the best of their genre, and are tied to a fairly well-liked setting. And just in the last couple days we have received some more news about the game, namely that Black Library has hired author Robbie MacNiven to write the tie-in novel, and that Titan Comics will be doing the same for the comics medium. Cue more excitement and gushing and fangasming. Check after the break for the official announcements.
In recent years, my relationship with the Star Wars franchise in its entirety has been in flux. Whether it be the disappointments of Episode VII: The Force Awakens or some of the recent novels like A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller or Honor Among Thieves by James S. A. Corey, I haven’t been enamoured of the franchise at all. There have been stand-outs such as Paul Kemp’s Lords of the Sith and James Luceno’s Tarkin, but there haven’t been many. And I won’t even get into the new comics from Marvel since most of them are retreading the area already covered extensively under Dark Horse and I don’t have much interest in them. However, when Rogue One was announced as a stand-alone movie in the franchise, and a prequel to the original Star Wars no less, I was excited because it was going to focus on almost entirely new characters and present us with something that we hadn’t really seen before on such a major platform.
Cue this past Thursday when the movie finally released. The trailers had built up a lot of hype for me, who was desperately looking for something to cheer for after the failings of The Force Awakens. Yes, the story would go over some material from Dark Horse and what some of the earlier video games had covered, but it was still mostly uncharted territory. Additionally, the period of the Galactic Empire’s dominance of the galaxy is one of the most fascinating periods in Star Wars lore, and I was totally ready for this movie. It looked to have a really awesome cast with some great promised cameos and I was all-in. And you know what, the movie didn’t disappoint. It was almost everything that I wanted from The Force Awakens but never got, and then some.
Note: This review contains some major spoilers from the movie, especially the ending, so read at your own risk.
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.
Towards the end of last year, Jean Johnson brought her Theirs Not To Reason Why military space opera series to a close in a grand fashion with Damnation, the fifth and final novel in the series. In this series, she introduced an amazingly detailed setting where our hero was a psychic soldier who takes on the entire known galaxy and reshapes it to battle a menace that no one else could even fathom. It was a fantastic series and by the time I was done reading it, I wanted to read more. But the series was done, and all that was left was the promise from Jean that this year we would go back in time to the First Salik War, the interstellar conflict that put Earth on the big stage and which ultimately segued into the events of Theirs Not To Reason Why.
The hero of The Terrans is a former regional politician named Jacaranda MacKenzie who is selected to be the political ambassador of humanity’s first deep foray into the rest of the galaxy, as the United Planets Space Force launches a massive first contact project on the back of several precognitive visions experienced by numerous powerful psychics. Yep, psychics affirming a first contact mission. We know from Jean’s previous series that this setting is populated by numerous psychics of various abilities, and that is something that she does a great job of in this new series, introducing us to many of the pros and cons of such people, especially within the context of a first contact mission.
Tales of Honor is the adaptation of David Weber’s Honor Harrington novel series and is written by Matt Hawkins, who is one of my favourite writers in the biz, and is drawn by Linda Sejic, an artist I don’t have much of an experience with, but love her work nonetheless. I’ve read a couple issues of the previous Tales of Honor volume, and even the recent FCBD issue, not to mention that I read the first novel recently as well, so I’m pretty well-versed with the setting and the characters, and going into this new arc, that’s a good thing since I can orient myself that much quicker.
Tales of Honor: Bred To Kill #1 picks up sometime after the recent war with the People’s Republic of Haven in the Basilisk system, and it has Honor coming back during some downtime from her job as the Captain of the HMS Fearless in order to discover the whereabouts of a missing relative. As the start to a new arc, Hawkins and co-writer Dan Wickline quickly establish the titular character’s “need to knows”, and move on with the meat of the story, which proves to be fairly interesting, and the corresponding art by Linda stands out as well, easily on par with some of the other top-notch stuff I’ve seen of late from various creators, including Linda’s husband Stjepan who is at the top of his game right now.
It is all well and good to have your hero triumph over villains who just aren’t on the same level as him. It is always thrilling to have Superman go up against low-key baddies, for example, but the true thrill only comes when he goes up against Darkseid, Brainiac or Lex Luthor, say. The same holds true for John Carter as well. It is awesome to see him fight against rogue Tharks and the other dangers of Barsoom, but when he is faced with another superhuman like Captain Joshua Clark, that’s when things get really interesting.
Having seen how their rivalry came about in the previous issues, and just why Clark hates Carter so much, issues #5 and #6 get down into the nitty-gritty of their final battle against each other, to decide who is the better man after all. And writer Ron Marz certainly doesn’t pull any punches in that regard. He keeps everything focused on the end-goal, and ends the first arc of the series on a great note. Similarly, artists Abhishek Malsuni and Roberto Castro do their best and the art on the series is as good as it was in the beginning.
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 .
Marvel launched its new line of Star Wars comics in January/February and one of the many new titles is Darth Vader, which is set in the aftermath of the Battle of Yavin and has Darth Vader trying to make up for his mistakes. Or at least, that’s what I think writer Kieron Gillen is attempting to do here, but the first issue fell flat for me as far as the story and the characters go, though the art wasn’t so bad and was fairly decent in places. Being a huge fan of the titular character, this did not seem like a good start to me at all, especially as I’m still sour on the whole deal with Marvel getting back the rights to these comics.
Darth Vader #2 continues the story of the titular character having been verbally punished by the Emperor and going on a crusade to hunt down the rebels who so confounded him at Yavin, particularly the young pilot who destroyed the Death Star, a supposedly impregnable battle station the size of a moon. And my issues with the story continued, what with General Tagge being an absolute ass in this issue, acting just like the pompous fool of an Imperial officer I’ve come to expect. The art was marginally better too.
One of the newest kids on the block, John Carter: Warlord of Mars has turned out to be pretty impressive, reminding me of Arvid Nelson’s first arc on Warlord of Mars, which totally made me fall in love with the characters and the setting, though the movie John Carter had done that already to a great extent. The comics were just icing on the cake. In the soft-rebooted world of the new series, writer Ron Marz goes forward in a great way, touching on things we haven’t seen before, and artist Abhishek Malsuni has contributed well, creating some really strong visuals.
From this past week, John Carter: Warlord of Mars #4 finally touches on the animosity between John Carter and Captain Clark by giving us a flashback to the battle that set off their rivalry in the first place. And it makes for a really great read since that first meeting was under banners of war, much as their reunion in the present is going to be. Captain Clark has slowly developed as a major villain for John Carter, and this issue adds some much-needed backstory, not to mention that the artwork as a whole continues to be good.
As part of its bid to “revitalize” the Star Wars franchise, having recently acquired it from George Lucas, Disney last month launched a new Star Wars comic that resets the entire comics-verse established by Dark Horse Comics to just the six movies, the ongoing Star Wars: Rebels show, and something else that I can’t quite recall. The new comic is set in-between the original movie and its sequel, and it follows on from what the Rebels and the Empire did in the intervening time. It was a somewhat better comic than I expected, but also of a letdown in some ways.
So I was expecting this past week’s Darth Vader #1 to be different and be better, but I had my doubts about it since Kieron Gillen’s writing is extremely hit-and-miss for me, which the writer proves yet again with this issue. The artwork here is actually pretty good, which you expect from a team that boasts of Salvador Larroca and Edgar Delgado, but the writing definitely did NOT impress me, and it is frankly one big mess that I really didn’t get. Plus it seems to show Darth Vader and the Emperor both as very petty and one-sided characters, which didn’t help things.
Another week of a “Magic 40”, though no graphic novels.
This week’s surprise hits were Ivar, Timewalker #1 from Valiant, Mortal Kombat X #4 from DC, and Twilight Zone: Shadow And Substance #1 from Dynamite. The disappointments of the week were Spider-Woman #3 from Dynamite and Spider-Verse #2 and The Amazing Spider-Man #13 from Marvel and Vampirella: Feary Tales #4 from Dynamite. Ongoing greats were Wonder Woman ’77 #3 , The Flash: Season Zero #11 and Supergirl #38 from DC, Black Widow #14 and Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #4 from Marvel, and, Grimm Fairy Tales: Realm War #6 from Zenescope among others.