Games Workshop’s tabletop war game Warhammer 40,000 is famous for its depiction of a vast and brutal universe. In Warhammer 40K, disparate factions battle and vie for power on a galactic scale. It’s so intense, it’s the origin of the term”grimdark”. Grimdark is a subgenre of fiction dealing with themes of violence, amorality, and dystopia. In recent years, Warhammer 40,000 has gained popularity with the influx of new video game titles. Plus, with a multitude of novels taking place in the 41st Millennium, it can be difficult to find a good place to start. That’s where WARHAMMER 40,000 vol . 1: WILL OF IRON comes in. Written by George Mann and illustrated by Tazio Bettin and Enrica Angiolini, the first volume of Titan Comics’ trilogy has just hit shelves. This comic provides a compelling slice of the 40k world for new fans and grizzled veterans alike.

Dour-Faced Space Marines Vs. Misshapen Daemons In WARHAMMER 40,000 vol . 1

WARHAMMER 40,000 vol . 1: WILL OF IRON features a classic match up in the 40k universe: a clash between righteous Space Marines and sinister Chaos. The story begins with an inquisitor’s interrogation of a corrupted prophet and his grim prophecy. A warp storm (i.e. psychic space magic) has abated, revealing an ancient star system previously untouchable by the Imperium of Man. Naturally, the Imperium’s enemies are just as interested in uncovering the secrets of the Calaphrax Cluster. The prophecy ends with a twist, however. It reveals that the Space Marines’ greatest enemy is themselves. Very spooky.

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This first scene acts as an overture for the rest of the comic. Flashes of fiery orbital drops delivering Space Marines to the surface of a planet. Shootouts with a gnashing horde of daemons. Regal mechs towering over an all-out war. Such images of explosive violence appear at a frenetic pace. At one point, a skull-masked commander leads a charge while spouting cryptic preacher babble about faith in the God-Emperor. Altogether, this opening prophecy manages to perfectly set the stage for the rest of the story. The opening is purposely light on technical details to draw in a wider audience. Nonetheless, it conveys the visuals and dark atmosphere that is the essence of 40k. This intro has all the striking neo-gothic architecture and misshapen eldritch creatures that fans adore the universe for.

Image courtesy of Titan Comics.

There’s No Mercy in Space

As the plot continues, the story gains more complexity. Fans of Warhammer 40k know that Space Marines and the Imperium of Man are bloodthirsty xenophobes striving to eradicate all non-human threats. While their fervor can be a tad extreme, nearly all the other factions (i.e. Chaos, Orcs, Dark Eldar, etc.) view humans similarly. Therefore humanity’s righteous hatred is actually kind of justified. The only factions besides the Imperium that might be considered “good guys” are the Eldar and the Tau. Conflict between those three factions occur frequently and are morally gray. WILL OF IRON appears to keep it black and white, focusing on the struggle between humans and Chaos. However, it soon shows the Imperium’s view of humans that do not worship their God-Emperor.

The Dark Angel Space Marines are fully prepared to do whatever is necessary to maintain their power, even if that means destroying what remains of human civilization in the newly accessible Calaphrax Cluster. Again, very severe of the very angry Space Marines. But this is a universe where Daemons of Chaos can easily gain control of humans. Anyone unprotected by the Imperium is another potential agent of Chaos. This concept plays out with the feudal inhabitants of Tintaroth, with whom the Dark Angels must negotiate.

Familiar Archetypes, Badass Displays, and Compassion?

Generally, one of the weaker aspects of Warhammer is the characterization of individuals. This can be expected in an enormous war-hungry universe where 10,000 years can pass and not much will have changed. WARHAMMER 40,000 vol . 1: WILL OF IRON suffers from this same curse, with most of the characters being series archetypes. However, the inclusion of Inquisitor Sabbathiel and her crew provides a rare view into the personal lives of these dour-faced space Romans. While brief, exchanges with her crew show that in this grimdark world, compassion between individuals still exists. Crew members actually show concern for the well-being of the inquisitor. Something this small can still stand out in Warhammer 40k.

If you’re craving meaningful character development, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you just want badassery though, WARHAMMER 40,000 vol . 1: WILL OF IRON has you covered.

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A Bright Ray of Light in the Grim Darkness

The artwork by Tazio Bettin and Enrica Angiolini is what really makes this comic stand out. Most of the artwork is vibrant and colorful, which is uncommon for Warhammer 40k. Rather than undermining the grim mood of the world, however, it serves to accentuate the setting. This vibrant trend is punctuated by gorgeous monochromatic pages reflecting the consequences of battle. Furthermore, the compositions of some of the pages elegantly weave together story and art in ways I’m not used to seeing in comics.

Image courtesy of Titan Comics.

Whether you have experience with Warhammer 40k or not, it’s worth giving WARHAMMER 40,000 vol . 1: WILL OF IRON a chance. Its combination of vibrant art and grim story create a compelling take on the 40k universe. New fans and old alike will appreciate this well-crafted comic adaptation. Even those completely new to the franchise will find enjoyment in the over-the-top action and engaging plot. For new readers having trouble keeping up while reading this comic, have the Warhammer 40k wiki open. It will come in handy, trust me.

WARHAMMER 40,000 vol . 1: WILL OF IRON by George Mann, Tazio Bettin, and Enrica Angiolini
WILL OF IRON presents a vibrant adaptation of the classic tabletop war game. It's simple enough to attract new fans and well executed enough to appeal to grizzled veterans.
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