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Sunday Slugfest - Warhammer 40,000: Damnation Crusade #1

Posted: Sunday, December 24, 2006
By: Keith Dallas

Writers: Dan Abnett and Ian Edgington
Artists: Lui Antonio and J.M. Ringuet

Publisher: Boom! Studios





Average Rating:

Tobey Cook:
Luke Handley:
Bruce Logan:
Judson Miers:
Chris Murman:
Steven G. Saunders:






Tobey Cook

Summary: In the bleak future of the 41st century, one man will be recruited by the Black Templars and trained to join their fight against the Imperium. Along the way he will fight against such fearsome enemies as the Necrons, and join forces with the Dreadnaught to bring down the Imperium in what may prove to be their longest fight yet - the Damnation Crusade.

So on some prodding from one of my fellow reviewers, I decided to give this book a try. I'm vaguely familiar with the Warhammer 40k universe, as well as being a fan of Dan Abnett’s writing. I’ve never seen Lui Antonio’s art before, but it’s got a fantastic painted and rendered look to it that really serves the story well.

Like I said, I don’t know anything about the characters featured in this book, but the visual appeal of the opening couple of pages combined with the all-out ruthlessness and savagery of the main character, Raclaw, as he’s chosen by the Black Templars to become their newest soldier in the war against the forces of the Imperium made me really curious to see where this story goes.

There’s also a small subplot involving the Dreadnaught, which according to what I’ve been able to dig up are sort of the elite soldiers of the Space Marines. The story here seems to be something like a holy crusade, where the Black Templars are deciding that they need to take out their enemies and awaken Tankred, one of their elite Dreadnaughts. He’s a bit funny, because really he doesn’t want to be fighting and would rather sleep. That made for a great, lighthearted moment in the middle of the battles surrounding the rest of the issue.

Overall, I have to say this is a pretty decent book. My only complaint is I don’t know much about the characters or the setting to really dig into it, but I think for long-time 40k fans who’ve been waiting for their favorite game to be turned into a comic, this is the way to go. Bringing in someone like Abnett who has a real background with these characters really makes all the difference, and Liu Antonio’s art brings out the strengths in his script. I’ll definitely give the second issue a look to see how the story develops, because it piqued my curiosity that much.




Luke Handley:

I’m not sure how widespread the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 tabletop wargames are in the U.S. Over here in the U.K., most guys I know went through a period gaming during their childhood and for some, like me, this period of interest lasted for a bit longer. I no longer play Warhammer 40k, but the concept and the universe in which it’s set still have a place in my heart. This isn’t the first comic book adaptation of the Games Workshop franchise. Several years back, Warhammer Monthly was published in the U.K., collecting four or five short black and white stories each time, some of which were ongoing month to month. Interestingly, when it was first published, it was the only comic I read on a regular basis. And to be honest, I remember enjoying it more than I enjoyed this first issue of Boom! Studios’ take on the mythos.

Dan Abnett is no newcomer to Games Workshop’s universes and especially 40k. I still follow his Gaunt’s Ghosts novels and really enjoyed his Eisenhorn trilogy, both published by Games Workshop’s in-house publishing department “The Black Library.” Here, he shows he knows and understands what the 41st millennium is about and how a space marine chapter functions. The plot is promising, if slightly straightforward, but, in my opinion, not dreadfully well executed.

This issue is rather clumsily put together. I know it has the unenviable task of briefly introducing the reader to all the different characters that will come to star in this book, whilst also having to introduce the Warhammer 40k virgin to this nightmarish vision of the 41st millennium. But by chopping from scene to apparently unrelated scene, with no real explanation as to what is going on, I was left feeling rather confused. I can’t imagine how someone who isn’t familiar with these concepts would feel. I know it’s just the beginning of the tale but some indication of what the “Torment Crusade” and “Landred Pacification” are would have been appreciated, even if it were only an added comment in a caption box.

One of the big shortcomings of this issue is the art. There are bits that look great, such as the Dreadnought standing fully revealed and the gothic-style battleship at the end, even some scenes from the arena fight, but overall the best word I can find to describe it is underwhelming. This is a fantasy, nightmarish, gothic-style future, yet many of the scenes and characters look a bit bland and boring. There really is scope here for the artist to go overboard with detail and let his imagination run wild (check out the illustrations in some of the Games Workshop rulebooks and press for some prime examples), but Antonio appears to stick to telling the story without any embellishment. For example, the full page spread of the Necrons; I know the model designs themselves are quite slick and smooth but there’s a difference between slick and dull.

I was really looking forward to this, and I can’t help but feel really disappointed. If someone who has a previous interest in the concept isn’t impressed then what will the total newcomer think? But maybe, by the same token, I’m just placing my expectations too high. This isn’t in any way a train wreck. Setup issues, especially when trying to introduce a whole new universe, are never easy, and I do have hope that things will only improve from here on out. I’ll definitely stick with the title a little longer and give it a real chance, but this first issue didn’t leave me with any burning desire for more.




Bruce Logan:

After last month’s Hellgate: London #1 (from Dark Horse), Boom! Studios’ Warhammer 40,000: Damnation Crusade #1 is my second video game-based-comic in as many months. Having played neither Hellgate: London or Warhammer 40,000 I am not in a position to comment on the actual game play or if and how faithful the comic versions are to it, be it in the characters, their powers and abilities or even their background story. What I can do I take the comic version as such and at most, analyze it on my past gaming experience (with other games).

The premise is basic enough, humans against aliens. By aliens, I mean those from other dimensions, magical beings or as it in this case, from outer space. Mankind isn’t on the run here, rather, they are possibly the oppressors. Having established a galaxy spanning empire, the driving force here is not so much survival but rather maintaining the status quo, i.e. the upkeep and possible increase of the empire. The responsibility for this falls of the shoulders of the Adeptus Astartes or as they more commonly known, the Space Marines, and that in short is what this issue is about, the Space Marines and how a commoner becomes one of them.

As far openings go, the one for Warhammer 40,000: Damnation Crusade #1 isn’t the most easy to get your head around. It isn’t too talky or even poorly illustrated (will get to that later). What it is akin to taking a newbie swimmer and tossing him/her into the deep end, there are more chances of the person sinking than of success and even though quite not a sinking stone, the opening gambit of this issue did leave me grasping for the proverbial straw. That came soon enough in the form of the main plot, which as I stated involves a commoner’s (in this case the ‘barbarian’, Raclaw) journey to Brotherhood of the Space Marines.

Along with Raclaw, Brother Brunner and the Necrons (the bad guys), we also have Brother Tankred, easily the most innovative character here. Once a (human) Brother, Brother Tankred is one of the elite who find immortality in the ‘body’ of a…, wait for it…, a machine. He is a Dreadnought. Although reminding of the War Golem from the lost in limbo Battle Chasers title from Image/Wildstorm, Tankred and his kind differ in the way that they have the personality and memories of their human selves.

The artwork is more than acceptable, if at times, a bit cluttered. This I attribute to the inking and coloring which tends to muddle things quite a bit. I understand that the story here requires a serious, dark ambience and as such, there is a predominance of black and other darker shades. However, with the penciling being this detailed, I would have appreciated if the colors would facilitate my complete appreciation of it and not hamper it.

Conclusion: Although not a bad read, Warhammer 40,000: Damnation Crusade doesn’t quite hit the spot. Maybe Boom! should have done this as a double sized (or maybe a #0) issue. That would have allowed for more of a story than the one we have here.

You can find more reviews by Bruce Logan at www.xcave.net




Judson Miers:

When I first saw Warhammer, I’ll have to admit that it looked like a take-off of Battletech’s universe. While there might be some similarities such as the mechanized suits of armor, the backstory and its overall setting is vastly different.

The plot of this issue basically is a “trial-by-fire” to see if there are any worthy humans, worthy of being transformed into a Space Marine of the Black Templars. The future is not a utopian world that some have envisioned. It is a wretched place where humanity teeters on the edge of extinction. With numerous anti-human factions seeking the destruction of the species, defenders must be fierce and well-chosen. This is the story of the testing of Raclaw.
The Writing: I truly enjoyed the writing, except for feeling kind of lost because I am not versed in the Warhammer 40k Universe. Other than that, the story progressed at the correct pace, set the proper amount of “hook” to get new readers interested, and covered events across the entire WU. I especially liked the unveiling of Brother Brunner. Also, kudos for adding the Warhammer Glossary at the back of the issue!

The Artwork: Besides some of criticism listed below, I found it to be sufficiently grim and gritty to create a very Miller-esque mood to the settings. I was able to feel the humidity, the dirt, the overall dankness of the environment, surprisingly suited to a story of this type.

Criticisms: I know these are nit-picky (and they don’t affect my review) but the weapons are totally impractical. Let’s just leave aside their massive sizes (even the smallest would weigh in excess of 10 pounds or so) to focus on all of the cut-outs. Those things look like those $299 retail value “custom bowies” on sale tonight only for $1.99 if you buy the econo-size lot shown on a late-night shopping show.

Raclaw, the main character in this issue, can be easily characterized by his white linen loin cloth while everyone else has on plate armor or soiled togas.

I would have liked to know more of the backstory that preceded this specific story if even just a brief history, kind of like what Marvel does on the inside front covers. This makes it more approachable for new readers and helps fans who have not been keeping up with the stories.




Chris Murman:

For those of us who spent hours trying to get the right amount of blood painted on a chainsword before battling your friends (actually, I played with mostly Dark Eldar so I was painting Succubus knives) this comic has been a long time coming. Even though this isn’t the first publication about the rich world created by Games Workshop, this book has major potential.

I could go on and on about why this book has me excited, but for now I’ll hit the high points:

The machine spirit: We all know how Dreadnaughts come to be. As explained in the glossary at the end of the book, fallen Space Marines’ life essences are transferred to a machine and reborn as the hammer of the Emperor’s army. It was really cool to see how one is reborn into the awesome machine and sent out to battle. It felt like the old instruction manuals were really brought to life in this respect, and I look forward to seeing how Brother Tankred develops in the field of battle.

The Templar’s recruited: Only the best and brightest are given the opportunity to don the armor of the Space Marine chapter. It was interesting to see how much of the Warhammer 40K universe is ignorant that battle rages on between the Emperor and rival races. It was easy to figure which army the Marines would face in this book, with the Necrons being the most popular baddie amongst the faithful figure painters. Raclaw’s ascension to being chapter worthy also provided a great prologue for what is to come. Whether or not the Black Templar chapter are the greatest of the Space Marines (the Space Wolves need to be mentioned in that same conversation) is debatable. I will say this though: the image of what I am guessing is an inquisitor standing before the young warrior and proclaiming that he was needed for, “wars like you wouldn’t believe,” completely captures what the ‘Hammer universe is all about.

Gerhart’s taunt: The sight of this squad captain removing his helmet and standing ready to face the evils of war with his blood-soaked chainsword is drawn very well. I have never seen Antonio’s work before, but his gritty style seems to fit this book and his style on the Necrons seem to set the table for future issues.

Obviously, since I am a fan of the tabletop game as well as the computer series that is one of my favorites to come out in a long time, I am really into this book. But that’s the key to this series. Will the faithful turn out for this book and give it some respectable numbers? I have my doubts, but here’s hoping that we are reading the start of a series that has a long run. This series is can’t miss for us painters.




Steven G. Saunders:

In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.

I think I should start off by stating that I am an avidly rabid Warhammer fan-beast. No, not “fan-boy,” for I outgrew that stage by the time I was 12 or 13, and I’m 31 at the time of this review. Whether it’s Warhammer Fantasy or Warhammer 40k, I love it. I love it more than most other things, actually. I love it so much that I proudly wore my Imperial Aquila (double headed eagle) pewter belt-buckle at my wedding 3 years back. Yes, it did indeed go very well with my expensive suit. Most people who know me are aware of my love for all things “Warhammery.” Though I don’t play the tabletop wargames as much anymore, I still play the role-playing games, read most all of the novels, get the videogames and cherish my Warhammer Monthly and Inferno! collections as if they are made of pure warpstone. I’ve got artbooks, miniatures of all sorts (yes, even Squats and Imperial Beatsmen), buckles, pins, posters, knick-knacks, do-dads and an unswerving devotion to the Emperor of Mankind. I don’t need to go on any further to qualify myself in the Ways of Warhammer. Chances are that I probably know more than you on the subject; and if I don’t, you are a rare human being indeed. Perhaps it is because you are actually Tau or even Eldar? If that’s the case, then I would have to make you eat the blessed business end of a multi-melta. And no need to apologise, I can get a servitor to clean up what’s left of you faster than a pure-strain genestealer on a meth binge.

No Pity! No Remorse! No Fear!

If you are unfamiliar with the fine Warhammer games and have no idea of what I’m talking about, I must tell you that I do not suffer Heresy and that it is best that you are purged immediately. However, if you manage to evade the Inquisitors, then go to Games Workshop’s website and poke around for yourself. Most of the information you need should be there. It should be noted that no real background in the grim future known as Warhammer 40,000 is needed. The Damnation Crusade comic has information on Space Marines and Dreadnoughts as well as some other tidbits in the back of the book. One doesn’t need to be familiar with 40k in order to get the gist of what’s going on or to enjoy said gist. You only need to know that this title covers the Black Templars chapter of the glorious Adeptus Astartes, also known to many as the Imperial Space Marines. Space Marines are super-soldier warrior-monks who are intensely trained, brutally conditioned and biologically modified to be uber-loyal, die-hard killing machines for the God-Emperor of Mankind (who rules from his Golden Throne on Terra) in our war-torn galaxy of the 41st millennium. Pretty much everything else one needs to know is explained in the glossary in back. So, anyone can jump into the Warhammer 40k universe with little problem and no need for a primer with this comic.

In fact, the way this issue is set-up—or, rather the way it’s setting things up as a set-up…well I believe I make sense, right? Anyway, yeah, the way this issue is set up, it is kind of like a primer in itself. We are introduced to a few characters and are shown how the Black Templars select candidates for indoctrination into their chapter. The candidate that is focused on is Raclaw, a man who demonstrates the kind of strength, resilience, tenacity and loyalty the Black Templars look for. There’s also some focus on a Dreadnought, which is pretty cool to see. Dreadnoughts are large “armoured walking tanks” that house special Battle Brothers (Space Marines) who have been deemed worthy by their respective chapters to live on in this form (provided they die, or come really close, first). It’s not quite immortality, as the now entombed Marine must rest until the time comes when he is most needed. The Brother Dreadnought who is introduced in this issue is Tankred. It takes a while to wake him, but eventually it seems he will comply as he says the great line, “It’s always time for war… there is only war.”

There’s some more jumping around, with one part showing the cold and frightening Necrons, a long dead race who are also entombed (if you will) in machinery. However, unlike the Dreadnoughts of the mighty Adeptus Astartes, they have more sinister, destructive motives. It’s only for three pages, so we’ll see where that goes. I’m curious to see how everything fits together. A reader could get the feeling while that this is all a tad disjointed and “jumpy,” but to those readers I say, “Have faith and do not despair.” I think that, considering the talent involved, this collection of events and characters will meld together into a great story and then proceed to pummel us with The fething Awesome. So far, it’s all very interesting and is indeed a very solid start, albeit a start that’s shrouded in mystery with the probability of more things to make us wonder about next issue.

I’m not sure who’s the primary writer here, or if it’s a full collaboration or what, but at least I know that this title is in the capable hands of two terrific writers. Dan Abnett is one of my all time faves, and anyone who knows anything about Warhammer will recognise his name. He and his clone army have churned out the best Warhammer 40k novels this side of the Eye of Terror, and I believe few would argue the opinion that he is the best writer (consistency-wise) that Games Workshop has. His Eisenhorn and Gaunt’s Ghosts books are some of the best sci-fi I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Surly, having him on board, especially since he’s also an accomplished comics writer already, is a fantastic idea. Then throw Ian Edginton into the mix and the Pure Talent is almost too much to bear. Edginton ’s a 2000AD alum like Abnett and is known for thrills such as The Red Seas and Stone Island (comics in 2000AD), as well as some other fine works in the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic and elsewhere. Really, I’m not being kind enough here, kids. You may think I’m writing a love letter to these two, and maybe I am, but they deserve it.

Do they deliver with Damnation Crusade? I’m pleased to say that they do. See, I may love these guys as writers, and I may crap myself with joy whenever the word “Warhammer” comes up, but I’ll still not like something merely based on those facts. There’s even a Warhammer novel by Dan Abnett I didn’t particularly care for (*gasp*). Anyhow, yes—Abnett and Edginton bring you 40k like it should be: Exciting, dark, intriguing, mysterious and even amusing. Issue #1 is all about getting the reader pumped up and ready for the big story to get underway. I feel that they manage to bring across the pumping in a very good way.

Yes. I noticed that the line above sounds odd, perhaps even bad, too. Let’s keep it in there, though… You know, so I can refer back to it and go, “Ye Gawds and Khorne’s Reading Glasses! What the hell was I thinking!? Bring more virgins for sacrifice.”

The art didn’t impress me initially, and when I first read this, I thought it was merely okay, and it neither wowed nor irritated me. However, upon further study, it grew on me more. Antonio & Ringuet really do a nice job with the lines, shading and colour. The action looks fluid and attention-grabbing, whereas the characters are done pretty well. A possible downside for some is that I think the technology and combat sequences really outshine the character-work, but that’ s a nit-pick, really. You know, I don’t mean this to sound like a backhanded compliment, but if the art doesn’t get in the way of the great story, that’s excellent. If the art manages to enhance the story, that’s even better. I think the artists here manage to do the latter, but not in a profound way. I’m cool with that, and as far as I’m concerned, this illustration team is more than welcome to stay.

My only gripe, and it’s a strange one, is that I wish that more could have been done with the presentation style of this comic to capture the look and feel of the 41st millennium. By this, I mean having Litanies printed in the borders in gothic script, odd notes and sketches, stuff like that; stuff that’s been a mainstay in 40k for decades now. I know, know, a lame gripe and I don’t want it to reflect poorly on this creative team, who’ve done a splendid job. It’s a certainty that I’m going to compare this to the now sorely missed Warhammer Monthly, and I’m happy to say this is a worthy successor. Not only that, but it’s a book that focuses on one overall storyline, as opposed to being one-shots and “parted” stories. A good thing, to be sure.

Suffer not the alien, the mutant, the heretic. Cleanse the guilty and purge the unclean.

Overall, this is the Warhammer 40,000 comic I was hoping to read for the last few months I’ve been not-so-patiently waiting. It should please both veteran fans and neophyte readers alike. I can see this series picking up momentum like a wild grox and opening up the doors for some more Warhammer-based titles (please? PLEASE?!). It’s a great start. The only thing I can see turning people off a bit is the disjointed nature of this first issue; which doesn’t bother me all that much, but it may bother others. It’s ambitious and fast-paced, just like a Warhammer story should be. I’d like to thank Boom! (and the creative team, naturally) for making this title happen. Here’s to many more issues!



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