Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar review – the origin of a Warhammer icon

Warhammer 40,000 makes its Marvel debut courtesy of fan-favourite writer and table-top game veteran Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine, Darth Vader, Young Avengers) and artist Jacen Burrows (Crossed, Punisher: Soviet) in Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar. In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war. Marneus Calgar, the legendary Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, leads his elite Space Marines against humanity’s greatest threats in a galaxy engulfed in endless war. Marneus Calgar’s never-before-told origin story is revealed – from his beginnings on Nova Thulium and his campaigns in the Black Crusades, to the unfolding mystery of the Black Altar, as a deadly threat from Calgar’s past reemerges to threaten the present of the Ultramar system!

Warhammer has always had a strong following, but it has seen a huge surge in popularity during the pandemic, with people having far more time to paint models and it being a perfect game for the indoors. Game Workshop has seen record sales numbers which has brought the company to new heights. With this success, their new publishing initiative with Marvel could not have come at a better time. They’ve also chosen the perfect creative team to launch the series with Kieron Gillen being a long-time fan of the franchise and overall tabletop/role playing game expert (as any readers of his DIE series for Image can attest to), and Jacen Burrows being a master when it comes to depicting war and battles.

This series succeeds on multiple fronts. Warhammer 40,000 has a long history and plenty of lore that would be intimidating to most newcomers, but Gillen’s familiarity with the source material and skill at world building makes this origin story very accessible. Whilst there are plenty of epic battles with hordes of enemies, he doesn’t lose sight that the main purpose is to delve into the character and backstory of Marneus Calgar. Calgar makes for a surprisingly complex protagonist, starting as an optimistic teenager that seems far off the grizzled veteran that he is known as today. It makes for an entertaining journey seeing how far he initially was from the version of the character fans are familiar with. Additionally, there are big twists on his established history and role in the Ultra Marines that not only makes for a captivating story but will also shock long-time Warhammer fans.

As previously stated, Jacen Burrows is on top of the list when it comes to showcasing war, epic battles and action, so the world of Warhammer 40,000 is a natural fit. This is not a comic for the faint of heart with plenty of gruesome and violent battle scenes but given the subject matter, it’s definitely to be expected. Burrows also does a great job of bringing some human factors to the warring factions. His different depictions of Calgar as a teenager and war-hardened leader in particular are key in showing how far the character has changed.

Marneus Calgar is perfect for both established fans of Warhammer 40,000 and newcomers. Gillen and Burrows have done a tremendous job on building on an established franchise whilst not being afraid to provide their own twist and turns which is a promising sign for any future Marvel/Games Workshop collaborations.

Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar is out now from Marvel  (9781302924782, p/b, £14.99)

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