Warhammer 40,000 is a space fantasy tabletop miniature war-game set in the fictional future of the 41st millennium AD. The settings tag line is extremely fatalistic:
“In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war”
It’s a very evocative line that conjures up the vast empty void of space, punctuated by marauding star ships engaged in eternal conflict from planet to planet— which is exactly what the setting is about.
Recently I’ve taken a keen interest in this cosmos as its radically different from most other campaign settings I’m familiar with. Aside from a few role-playing sessions involving several Warhammer game systems spawned from the tactical roots of the game, I recently picked up a copy of the the trade Warhammer 40,000: Will of Iron which collects volumes 1-4 of the 2017 Titan Comics series. The series looks to introduce comic fans to the rich cosmology of the setting of Warhammer 40K.
And as far as introductions goes, the comic does an excellent job.
Over the years I’ve come across the lore of Warhammer through a few novels, casually observed rpg sessions of fellow gamers and most notably, war-games going on at tables next to ones where I would be playing D&D at a local shop. The thing that always struck me about the gamers was their familiarity with and true zeal for the setting.
(I will never forget one D&D game session I attended at a diner where our group happened to be flanked by another table of gamers who were playing Rogue Trader, a Warhammer 40K rpg system, and at one point, one of their members jumped up and proclaimed loudly: “I’m a SPACE MARINE!”)
The Warhammer setting has always appealed to me, from my earliest awareness of its existence. However its a cosmos with an incredibly dense and rich lore that has equally made me hesitant to invest in. Add to this the prohibitive costs of the war-game itself which entails massive armies of miniatures, which in turn necessitates paints, supplies, space (har-har) and time, and one can see that my hesitation is perfectly understandable
Which is why products like Titan’s new adaptation of the Warhammer universe are such a pleasure to behold.
Written by a former manager at Games Workshop, George Mann, and illustrated by Tazio Bettin an artist who got his chops inking for roleplaying and miniatures games, the series is an excellent introduction to the cosmos.
The spirit of the Warhammer mythos is one of warfare and ideological and theological purism. From a D&D perspective, it’s as if every player in the game is suddenly assumed to embody their racial lineage from a purely militaristic viewpoint. Its a cosmos of absolutes, but also filled with deception and uncertainty.
In this grim dark future where humanity owes its allegiance to the Emperor, a faded husk of spiritual energy. They in-turn are assaulted by various other interstellar races like the Eldar and Orks, the futuristic equivalents of elves and orcs. Worp travel is provided by chaotic means that uses psychic-like energy, responsible for pulling extra-dimensional demonic forces into the universe.
As an introduction to this mythos, I feel the comic is a great first step and the second trade-paper back is already on my wishlist. So if you’re looking for a nice, poetic ease into the Warhammer universe, I highly recommend the rag. And, for an equally visually stunning intro to the Warhammer world, check out graphic designer Richard Boylan’s YouTube page where he has done an awesome animated rendition of the Warhammer Helsreach audio book, the first episode of which is below.