By John Mills
I haven’t been particularly shy about my interest in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, which I first talked about here in my “Battlefleet Gothic: Armada review.” “Will of Iron” is the first in a three-part series of comics, with its sequels titled “Revelations” and “Fallen.” While comics are not necessarily the best introduction to the 40k universe, “Will of Iron” is as good as one will find with the medium.
Previous comics in the universe are either out of date with current lore, presuppose knowledge of the subject, or difficult to find in a legal fashion. This does not mean they are not worth reading, but “Will of Iron” is a superior starting place.
The plot of the series is deeply rooted in the lore, many elements of which were set down over twenty years ago. However, it does a good job of explaining what is going on for first time readers, or those unfamiliar with the characters and organizations in focus.
There are three main factions at work in “Will of Iron” and its sequels: the Dark Angels space marine chapter, the Imperial Inquisition, and the Iron Warriors chaos space marines. Also making their presence known throughout the trilogy are the Eldar, Necrons, Grey Knights, and Knight House of Tintaroth, which are four other playable factions in the tabletop game.
Story-wise, “Will of Iron” and its sequels make good use of unveiling story elements only when necessary, leading to satisfying conclusion. There are two core protagonists, and though they never meet, their stories are irrevocably intertwined. The first is Space Marine Baltus, a loyal member of the Dark Angels trying to be the best he can.
The second, and more important character, is the manically driven Inquisitor Sabbathiel, determined to find the corruption at the heart of the Dark Angels and destroy it.
The Dark Angels meanwhile are tasked with clearing the recently uncovered Calaphrax cluster, a region of space that had been cut off for millennia by a terrible cosmic anomaly known as a Warp Storm.
The art in “Will of Iron” is nothing unique in the world of comics, but it works quite well for the story being told. Some of scenes are downright gorgeous, with soaring vistas and starscapes. But where illustrator Tazio Bettin really shines is in nailing the characters and putting his own flavor on long-established designs.
There are a few sticking points with this series. The first is that while lore knowledge may not be necessary to understand what happens, especially by the conclusion, the first several issues may be confusing without it.
The Caucasus belli of Inquisitor Sabbathiel don’t make sense if you aren’t familiar with the Dark Angel’s in-universe secret past. The second notable sticking point is that while it brings in a variety of characters and factions, none really get the screen time or development they may deserve.
In the end, if you are a fan of Warhammer 40,000 or looking for a decent, affordable gateway into the lore and hobby—without having to pay the famously high Games Workshop prices—you could do a lot worse than checking out “Will of Iron.”