2 out of 5
Reading 2000 AD trades before I’d read the issues was always strange. I “got” that what I was reading was initially published in 7 or so page increments, but it still didn’t make much sense to my American comic-ized brain in terms of pacing. And when I would step outside of Dredd books to Dredd-adjacent stuff, it wasn’t clear if / how the stories were connected. Now that I’m an active prog reader, those trades (and the many others I’ve since picked up) make a lot more sense, and I’ve grown to admire and kinda love the short-and-to-the-point format, which generally makes for a much more punctuated, concise read than some of their long-winded US brethren. Each has their place, though, for sure.
From 2000 AD, I picked up on writers like Gordon Rennie and Dan Abnett, and from those guys, I found a lot of crossover with the Warhammer comic worlds – something I certainly had even less handle on than Dredd. I mean, Dredd was sci-fi, and vaguely followed some comic constructs I recognized, but Warhammer, having sprung from a tabletop game, still feels quite different.
This collection, taken from the monthly Warhammer magazine (and, it should be noted, the trade attributes the ‘story’ to both Kev Walker and Rennie, whereas comicbookdb suggests the former writer wrote the first four collected issues’ bits, Rennie the rest) is my first exposure to WH in this format. I’ve read a couple books, otherwise. That’s it. To say that I ‘don’t get it’ is putting it lightly, but it’s also to admit that I jumped into this complete cold, and it’s the middle of a three-part ‘daemonifuge’ tale, so woe is me.
Not that it seems all that complicated. The Daemonifuge is Ephrael Stern, somehow possessed of the arcane knowledge of her sisters before her that allows her eyes to glow and zap at the agents of Chaos, whom we’ll assume are Warhammer’s (or at least this comic’s) big bad. In part one, it sounds like she discovered her role as the ‘Fuge, and part two has her coming to terms with that. It’s pretty heavy-handed stuff – very serious – and the narrative switches from third to first person rather disarmingly, such that I had to sift through the opening a couple of times to get my bearings. But once you’re keen to the setting, that’s pretty much all there is to it. Ephrael is brought forth to be judged by some important people, then ends up battling some Chaos, and is then ‘re-born’ as a combatant in some type of prison gauntlet, waiting to be whisked away for whatever the next stage of Daemonifuge-ism is. The lead up to that initial battle is pretty exciting, though Karl Richardson’s stiff art (and perhaps Kev Walker’s script) paces and frames things incredibly at odds with that excitement, making the reader sort of fight against the page to understand what’s happening. Stern’s rebirth, thereafter, has some interesting flashes (and wonderful full bleed art from Chris Quilliams that the binding of the trade isn’t too kind to, unfortunately), but it’s written in an offhand manner that makes it feel like chunks of the story are taking place elsewhere.
And maybe they are! That’s what all the prattle about my exposure to Warhammer is about up above: it’s possible that reading the monthly mag from which this stuff was taken would ground me better in the world, and cue me better for the immersion hitches I experienced here.
The collection includes some sketches in the back from Karl Richardson’s pages.