Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar #1 is published by Marvel Comics, written by Kieron Gillen, art by Jacen Burrows, colors by Java Tartaglia, and letters by Clayton Cowles. In the grim darkness of the distant future, there is only war. With the Imperium of Man besieged on all sides, there is no time for distraction. If humanity blinks, it is doomed. Whether it be ravenous aliens, ancient machines newly awakened from millennium-old slumber, or the greatest enemy of all, the dreaded hordes of Chaos. In humanities struggle for survival, few individuals loom as large on the frontlines as Marneus Calgar, Chapter Master of the Ultramarines.
First issues are never easy. Scenarios, characters, and often whole worlds must be laid out. New worlds are often considered the toughest to start, as the reader is always coming in blind. But when approaching a decades-old property like Warhammer 40K, a writer is faced with an almost greater challenge. Introducing new readers to as much as possible, while not bogging down old hands with all the background they already know. Writer Gillen is no stranger when it comes to world-building, and his attempt to balance these two contradictory needs is admirably handled. Let’s take a closer look.
Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar #1’s story is split into two halves. We are first introduced to the present, where Calgar is looking over the reconstruction of an imperial agricultural planet recently ravaged by the forces of Chaos. Interspersed with this story is flashes to many centuries ago when Calgar was not yet a Space Marine. In fact, not even a man.
Being familiar with the character of Calgar for the better part of two decades now, I can honestly say the image of him as anything but a space marine wrapped in his heavy armor with his weapons of war at the ready had never been presented to me before. It was a direction I honestly didn’t see coming, but I think Gillen does a smart move by introducing readers to the young man. This side of the story provides something new for any reader. And you not only see a contrasting version of Calgar to the lord of battle he is in the present, but you also get a lot of world-building about the Imperium through these moments.
Calgar’s reminiscing about the past is cut short, however, as heretics who worship the dark gods of Chaos attack nearby. Their incursion so close to what should be secure land is troubling, and Calgar decides it requires his undivided attention.
The moments Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar #1 spend on the battlefield are exactly what they should be. The space marines are shown to be the angels of death they are so often described as in the tabletop game’s lore. This is another moment that works for both new and old readers. As the new get their first taste of what combat is like in the 41st millennium, and old hands see that the bannermen of their favorite hobby is being treated right.
While the art in Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar #1 does an excellent job of relaying the brutality of it’s setting, it doesn’t quite land the other aspects of the world’s tones. The world Calgar inhabits is, as the line goes “the grim darkness of the distant future”. I would’ve liked to see a greater sense of darkness present in the art. Whether that be through heavier line work on the part of artist Burrows, or a darker color scheme from colorist Tartaglia, either way I wish the visuals more strongly embraced the dark gothic tones that are omnipresent in the setting.
Aside from that, however, I really enjoy the art. All the character designs feel true to their origins. From Calgar himself, down to the smallest Mechanicum Adept, the look show that Burrows has clearly done his homework in making the characters, places, and vehicles look the part.
A final aspect that must be mentioned is a couple of planetary overviews that are used to break up the story. These primarily give information about the worlds the story takes place on, which is good, but also are used to deliver little pieces of information in the form of “Thoughts of the Day”. Presented like notes from the Imperium itself, it goes a long way to further emphasizing the fanaticism of the Imperium. With one thought simply being “Why are you thinking?”. A small step above and beyond to help immerse the reader in what the 41st millennium is.
Lastly, we have the lettering. With plenty of dialogue, planetary analysis screens, and the usual bevy of sound effects present, letterer Cowles has plenty of work to do to present Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar #1’s story in a way that is both clear, and interesting. I’m glad to say the job is delivered with flying colors.
With hints of a growing danger coming at the end, Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar #1 leaves its story on a place that should have readers looking forward to next issue. If Gillen and company can keep up the level of work they have begun, fans new and old have a lot to look forward to.
Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar #1 is available now wherever comics are sold.
Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar #1
With hints of a growing danger coming at the end, Warhammer 40K: Marneus Calgar #1 leaves it’s story on a place that should have readers looking forward to next issue. If Gillen and company can keep up the level of work they have begun, fans new and old have a lot to look forward to.