Warhammer Monthly #84 Review

Comic Reviewer: Will Cooling

Editor: Christopher Dunn
Publisher: Black Library

One of the alleged truisms about the British comics market is that its 2000AD, reprint and a few kiddies comics, something that sadly has a veneer of truth after the late eighties/early nineties crash virtually destroyed wholesale genres such as girls romance, war and football that had been the staple diet of the British comic industry for decades. However, amongst the hordes of titles reprinting four-year old Marvel material there are some quality comics, with Warhammer recognised as the “adult” high-street British comic with the highest profile other than 2000AD with the likes of Dan Abnett, Gordon Rennie, Frazer Irving and Simon Coleby all have contributed. It’s based on the world of those Warhammer figures things and as you can tell I have no idea what they are or how they tie in with this comic. Oh screw just lie back and enjoy our review of an interesting comic set in a mock Medieval world full of vampires and werewolves”¦

Story Title: Plaguebringer Pt. 1
Written by: Si Spurrier
Art by: Frazer Irving
Lettered by: Fiona Stephenson

A diseased and infectious humanoid murderer stalks the landscape haunted by voices and illusions from his brother about his holy mission”¦

This is the only story starting this issue and it’s a relief to have one that I’m not trying to second-guess the plot and previous events. Si Spurrier and Frazer Irving deliver a story that is very similar in tone to their 2000AD hit From Grace, despite this utilizing a linear narrative. The narration of the murderer is extremely similar to Cain’s and there’s the same sense of oblique horror and concentration on dysfunctional brotherly relationship. The oblique horror comes from the identity and nature of murderer with the illusions to his mission and illness being a chilling and disorientating experience. Where the writing differs from “From Grace” is in the nature of the protagionist; where as Cain was a dominant and sadistic force the murderer here is a confused, manipulated shambles that evokes as much pity as fear.

A sense of oblique horror also comes from the superb work of the incomparable Frazer Irving whose perfect at depicting the supernatural nature of the murderers as the murder just lays his hands on the victim, in many ways it is reminiscent of his work on Judge Death. His style is closer to his debut style on horror series such Necronauts, Fort and My Name Is Death with a scratchy and lined based style that produces some brilliant panels. His use of shadows combined with the small size of the pages (Warhammer is around American size) allows him to capture the cramped and claustrophobic nature of the script in way similar to Eddie Campbell’s work on From Hell. A weird, nasty and thoroughly excellent story.

Story Title: Of Ancient Blood Pt. 2
Written By: Mitchel Scanlon
Art By: Jon Haward
Lettered By: Fiona Stephenson

You know if we think about it under the terms of the UN Charter one of the most wicked war crimes in history are the campaigns of genocide to wipe out all the witches from the world, yet we don’t see that way because a) they don’t really exist and b) even if they did they aren’t human (sounds familiar). However, Scanlon takes a different view instead presenting a world where witches are on the run persecuted by Germans (hey, if the boot fits?) and supported by a network of sympathetic humans who hide and support them. A group of witch hunters have come to the village where a witch called Katarina hides and begin to interrogate the villagers to find where she has been hidden.

This is a good story which is fairly easy to pick up mid-stream as although the events of last issue aren’t really recapped properly the central issue of this part of whether Katarina will be betrayed is well presented with some of the wider context of the conflict between the Witch Hunters and the Witches given. Scanlon is also excellent at making Katarina a sympathetic character with some nice understated characterisation of her and her supporters adding greatly to her status as a “good guy”. His use of many of the devices of the hiding of Priests during the reformation and counter-reformation is an interesting irony. In addition his Evil German Witch Hunters are so sadistically zealous and self-righteous that there’s no way you can sympathise with them. The art is good too with Haward having a very clean and solid art style that combines both details with an exaggerated cartooney aesthetic. Together with the writing it produces an understated and slightly traditional story full of good characterisation and tension.

Title: Hammerbildt Pt. 2
Written By: James Peaty
Art By: Gary Erskine
Lettered By: Fiona Stephenson

Hammerbildt is a village made vulnerable by all its young men-folk going off to fight in a war to the North. A group of wolf-esque scavengers have taken advantage of this leaving a trail of destruction including the death of two villagers. Now the village guard meets to discuss the recent events with the Captain proving strangely complacent only to be jolted out this by a surprise new recruit”¦

This is another good if slightly traditional story, with the medieval theme being used to weave a sound (if not exactly scary) horror story. The characterisation is pure generic horror movie with the mature and responsible one extolling everyone not to panic, the brash and unconventional one extolling everyone to do something and everyone else sitting back and egging them on as a means to get some action. Predictably they do go and do some searching only for spooky things to happen. However, Peaty degrades this clichés from American teenagers to a Medieval village quite well, the character of the Captain is a believably world-weary and knowledgeable. The eager and unconventional role is played by Monika, a widow of one of the victims and while she is a bit too Xena and male/lesbian fantasy action Barbie for my tastes she’s a reasonably well-developed character with believable skills. Plus her skirt is really short.

The art by Gary Erskine is excellent with an extraordinary amount of detail and precision placed into his linework. It adds a lot to his characterisation especially in the Captain’s discussion with Monika about her joining and also renders some of his backgrounds stunning especially those in the cave. A sound, unflashy art style that focuses on telling the story as opposed to wowing the reader. Good stuff all round.