We return once again to the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, as the siege of the Calaphrax Cluster, which had been isolated behind a warp storm for ten thousand years, continues. Baltus and his space marine squad continue to storm the war-torn planet of Exyrion, discovering a hive city underneath the surface that could hold many ancient secrets. Meanwhile, Interrogator-Chaplain Altheous is on a secret diplomatic mission to a surprisingly inhabited world called Tintaroth for a hidden purpose. At the same time, Inquisitor Sabbathiel is traversing the cluster to look for proof of treachery and heresy within the ranks of the Dark Angels. And all the while, the ruthless chaos space marines called the Iron Warriors are mounting an attack to destroy their old enemies once and for all.
Let’s get to the biggest problem of the comic: the pacing. There are four separate stories that have yet to come together, all of which have to take up sizable portions of the twenty-some page comic, which is the second issue of a four-part story. This style is called “writing for the trade,” which means the issues are written more to be a collected story rather than each one standing on its own. In theory, this makes the whole story feel like a book, each issue being a separate chapter. This, given its length and the contents, feels more like each issue is a different segment of an hour-long TV show with the commercial breaks being a month long.
While the characterization still feels weak, the comic more than makes up for it with intrigue. All of the different storylines bring up different pieces of an intricate puzzle that promises something sinister, particularly Altheous’ private mission. It promises something more than just the Very Bad Thing that the Dark Angels did in the past, or at least suggests there’s more to the story. At least I hope so, because it would be amazing if the story held surprises for fans and newcomers alike.
The art continues to be grand and awe-inspiring, stretching even to the cover where we see Baltus and rows of his space marine brethren standing side by side. Just as striking are the visuals, from the unique character designs to the settings. My favorite location has to be Tintaroth, which is designated as a “feudal world” because of its medieval architecture. There’s something inherently awesome about a group of enormous mecha (called imperial knights) standing guard over an Arthurian castle. I also like that one of the high-ranking Iron Warriors is missing part of his lips, making his face a permanent scar and making him look like a Bond villain on steroids. Touches like that really give a comic staying power.
Overall, it’s a marked improvement over the previous issue, especially because the plot seems to be moving forward. I do wish that I knew more about these characters than just their job and current mission, but I also want to know what happens next. It can’t have been easy to fit a story dripping in such a rich lore into a four-issue comic, but there’s enough of the 40k brilliance to keep people hooked. Hopefully, the quality will only go up from here and the story attracts new readers to this world.