Whether or not you’re into tabletop gaming, it’s hard to deny that Warhammer 40k features some of the most beautifully grim art to grace the world of military sci-fi. To Games Workshop‘s credit, they know exactly how critical it is to nurture an instantly recognizable image for their product. For the most part, nearly every licensed w40k product features excellent artwork. I’ve always been drawn to the world of w40k, first as a fan of the game, and more recently as a fan of the novels. W40k might be my favorite extended universe ever. The scale is immense, the back-story is interesting, and the human inhabitants are a refreshing departure from the typical USA in space (which I griped about last post). W40k is a perfect blend of military sci-fi and horror, so expect to see a lot more coverage of it on this site.
Being a casual fan of the w40k universe, I’ve always loved the artwork, but never delved into the artists who brought the 40k world to life. Hence, The Emperor’s Might, a recently released w40k artbook, seemed like a perfect way to journey further into the fiction.
The Emperor’s Might
Author: John Blanche
Country: United Kingdom
Featured Edition: Black Library, October 2012
The Emperor’s Might was compiled by John Blanche, Games Workshop‘s resident art director. John Blanche is an amazing fantasy artist, and landed his current gig with GW way back in 1986. As well as contributing his own art to the 40k universe, Blanche also oversees all the contributions by other artists and sculptors, and ensures that they match the required tone and quality. It’s largely thanks to Blanche that w40k looks the way it does. I’d be willing to bet that the 40k brand wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is if it didn’t have such cohesive imagery.
The Emperor’s Might focuses on the exploits of the space marines. This isn’t the definitive 40k art book, but it is readily available, which can’t be said of books like The Art of Warhammer 40, 000, which are more all-encompassing, but are sadly out-of-print. Every space marine chapter gets its due in over 140 pages of high quality color prints. The quality of the images in this book can’t be understated. The colors are vivid and crisp. The hardcover binding feels solid, and fortunately survived the abuse I subjected it to in an effort to produce the scans for this post.
I can’t fault the quality of the package, but the price of the book seems somewhat steep considering the amount of content within. Then again, this is Games Workshop, so I can’t pretend to be surprised by a company that routinely gouges its customers’ wallets. For the same price of this artbook, you could probably buy a couple of plastic terminator units.
My biggest annoyance with this book is that it’s an artbook that barely credits the artists within! There is literally no way of knowing who produced each work without consulting the internet, or searching futilely for a scribbled autograph. When I open an artbook, I expect at the very least to be told the names of the featured artists. It would also be nice to see the title of each piece, and a date. The Emperor’s Might provides none of these details. The only mention of the artists is in a small piece of text at the back of the book, in small font along with the copyright information… I understand that the limited space was devoted to art instead of text, but it would have been relatively easy to include a proper index of the artists responsible for each piece.
I purchased The Emperor’s Might because I wanted to acquaint myself with the artists of the 40k universe, but I found it difficult to do so considering the lack of proper credits. I’m sure that die-hard 40k fans are already familiar with the artists of their favorite expanded universe, and thus don’t need a set of credits, but this is still unfair to casual fans like myself. Irregardless, the artwork is still superb, so I wouldn’t discourage anyone from purchasing the book based on this sore point, but it is disappointing.
The artwork ranges from the early beginnings of the w40k brand to the present-day. Had the dates of the pieces been provided, it would have been interesting to see the evolution of the 40k world in concrete terms. About half the paintings feature portraits of individual Astartes, many of which are primarchs or individuals of high rank. Anyone who plays as space marines will instantly recognize many of the paintings from various codexes or rule books.
My favorite pieces of art are the large 2-page spreads that feature massive battle scenes. They epitomize what I love about w40k: massive bloody space conflicts performed on an epic scale. I recognize one of these pieces as the cover art for the UK Death Metal band Bolt Thrower‘s 1989 album Realm of Chaos, so I would assume that several of the other 2-page spreads date back to this era. I still remember being transfixed by issues of White Dwarf as a kid in the mid 90’s; apparently my tastes haven’t changed with age…
As well as the color portraits and battle scenes, there are also a number of black and white images. Although the quality of these meet the standard of the rest of the book, I’ve always preferred w40k’s color paintings. There are even a few pages of landscapes, which seem almost out-of-place without at least one space marine in sight. The book apparently features never-before-seen artwork, but without any index I can’t begin to guess which images these are.
Overall, I would still recommend this book, but don’t make the same mistake I did and expect to learn more about the artists of the 40k world. My ideal book would not only list the artist credits (as a bare minimum), but would even include some back story about each piece, or each artist. Oh well, knowing GW, they may one day release this fantasy book of mine, and subsequently charge $200 for it… As always, please join the xenomorphosis facebook page, it could always use some more love. I plan to do more artbook reviews, so stay tuned.
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Clicking any of the following thumbnails will open a gallery of my favorite pieces from The Emperor’s Might