Captain Kirk’s Weekly Comic Review – 02/24/2020

Simplicity is best.

A comic doesn’t need to be overly complicated. I don’t need fancy decorations in the credits or a pretentious tone to embellish an existing franchise that has been around for about sixty years. All I need is a reminder of why I liked the franchise in the first place.

I think creators sometimes lose sight of the value of the franchise by trying to place their own personality on the existing creation. While I can understand that they bring value to an existing property, they also have to remember that they must be subservient to that property’s core values. I think these things remain classic and to my mind, classics never go out of style.

Bear in mind, I am not a close-minded individual. I welcome new creators all the time and will fully acknowledge their place in the franchise. I just don’t have to like it. However, while I don’t have to convince others about the supremacy of my opinion over theirs, I also have the freedom to celebrate what I like about the franchise. Changes to the franchise are free to be made, but just don’t take away what made it great.

I think that’s what I like about Marvel Comics’ Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar #5 (Keiron Gillen, Jacen Burrows, Guillermo Ortega, Java Tartaglia). So, I’m going to focus in this book this week.

You know, keeping things simple.

I’ve played this Games Workshop game for more years than I care to relate. Sadly, I haven’t played it much because of aging, lack of people to play with and of course, the eternal issue of time. However, what I loved best was the backstories of the signature character pieces, the mythology that grew up around the published games and the snippets of entertaining text that accompanied the rules. There was a real sense of identity about it and a property with that much backstory has a momentum about it that will propel itself and the various media incarnations it has manifested, video games, novels, animated films and of course, comics, are testament to its resilient appeal.

There has always been a high-handed, messianic tone to the Warhammer universe. Based on the idea of two conflicting religions that have maintained an interstellar war for a millennium, Humanity’s quest to perpetuate itself throughout the cosmos has been reduced to simply survival and the basic nature of Man has become war. It’s dramatic, romantic and definitely possessed of the same flavour that attracted me to this game.

It’s a very simplistic message that served to provide backdrop for the game. It’s a world built around a game so the milieu in which the game is set has to be basic, but the attachment that players develop for their special pieces becomes like a love of a favourite character in a story. A simple story but one that participants in this shared story can easily grow to love.

I also admire Marvel Comics’s decision to ally themselves with this influential franchise and create a comic that hundreds of thousands of worldwide gaming fans can enjoy. This game is a powerful media enterprise and storytelling venue.

In fact, that’s what game is: a shared, interactive story in which the pieces become the favourite characters that players can direct. The playing pieces become as vibrant and as personal as a hero in any novel. In Warhammer 40K, the fact that players have to paint their own pieces makes them personal champions. Whenever a game is played, players not only try to protect these pieces but also put them into situations when they can attain personal glory in battle.

I like how Kieron Gillen captures this spirit. Marneus Calgar’s dialogue not only reflects this emphasized sense of battle-glory, but also how important he is to the story. He is willing to strike heart into the heart of the enemy, but at the same time, knows the wisdom in strategic withdrawals making sure that the enemy knows that space marines don’t run from battle. There is a lot of this which not only entertains the reader but must have had a lot of fun for Gillen to write.

Jacen Burrows specializes in gore.

Blood spatters, visceral tearing, I don’t think there’s an injury that can be inflicted on the human body that would challenge Burrows’ artistic abilities. In this universe, the natural state of Humanity is to dwell in war. The enemy is the ultimate antithesis of civilization. Forces of Chaos incarnate, pestilence, or just simple bloodlust, and they need an artist who can accurately represent these foul ideals. This may seem like a backhanded compliment, but truly, Burrows fits this bill.

However, in this case, fighting against the evil of these chaotic hordes is a noble crusade and the struggle has to be realized; Burrows is the guy who can deliver the goods.

I think Gillen has the right measure of this book. It’s fun, it’s representative of the franchise that fans of the game could immediately accept and more important, enjoy.

Simplicity is best. Keeping to the values that made this Games Workshop franchise so appealing is not only a sage and safe approach to writing this book, but it also maintains the classicism of its appeal. Warhammer is a game with a powerful appeal, attracting the attention of celebrities like Henry Cavill, Vin Diesel, and even the legendary Robin Williams. But, Warhammer has an alliance of fans around the world that not only love its challenge, but the epic scale of romance that it offers isn’t just an exercise in wargaming but storytelling.

In essence, simplicity in entertainment itself.

Yeah, Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar is the pick of the week and exactly what I was looking for.

Praise the Emperor.

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About Captain John K. Kirk

Captain John K. Kirk
John Kirk is an English and History teacher and librarian in Toronto, Canada. In addition to the traditional curriculum, John tries to teach his students to make sense of geek culture. And with the name "J. Kirk," it's hard for him to not inject "Star Trek" into his lessons. Comics, RPGs and the usual fanboy gear make up his classroom resources.