Saturday, September 10, 2005

Four-colour friends

A recent trip to my local GW netted me a graphic compendium worth commenting on.

Tales of Hellbrandt Grimm
Michael Scanlon and the Sharp brothers
GW: Black Library

Having taken up GM'ing WFRP2 in recent months, I have decided that it's time I read a bit more widely about the background than the 7 Gotrek and Felix novels I've read. Looking at the Black Library (BL) shelf in my local GW, I saw several interesting looking omnibus editions of other well-known series of novels. Then I caught sight of this little number: a pocketbook-sized TPB anthologising stories first published in the now defunct Warhammer Monthly (WM). Result!

I remember reading the first few episodes of this story in the special 1st birthday issue of WM, the first couple of dozen of issues of which I collected. Those first issues were a real mixed bag IMO. Some of the strips were pretty good, others were really quite bad. (This opinion of mine wasn't widely shared: WM won the 'Best New Comic' award in the National Comics Awards in 1999).

The first WM monthly strip that really caught my attention was 'The Redeemer', by the legendary Pat Mills, of 2000AD and 'Judge Dredd' fame. This strip captured the full zealous insanity of the world of the Dark Millenium, which has long been my main interest in the sphere of GW ttg's. It was the first strip that I felt really achieved this, presenting the setting and its characters with the requisite whacked-out humour and proper comicbook stylings. This is hardly surprising really. 2000AD was a major influence on the GW crew that gave us WFB and 40K, so it is hardly surprising that a leading light from that classic British comic should be the first to get properly under the skin of the Dark Millenium in WM.

All the same, I can still remember the first of the 'Tales of Hellbrandt Grimm' in the 1st birthday special issue of WM given away with the White Dwarf. As with all the other Warhammer strips in WM, this had little impact on me because of my interest in 40K et al.

So it has been with some pleasure that I have been discovering what I had missed.

The first thing I liked about Tales of Hellbrandt Grimm (ToHG) was its pocketbook size. This is neat and portable, which is just nice IMO. It also reminds me of the Commando Comics I used to read as a kid: WW2 action comics published by the infamous DC Thompson, best known for The Beano, The Dandy, and the inimitable The Sunday Post.

The next thing I liked about ToHG was, well pretty much everything else. A hardbitten and ruthless- not to mention surely downright evil- mercenary, Grimm is kind of a 'man with no name' of the Warhammer Old World. Most of his adventures are recounted by some storyteller or other, most notably some 'hapless' prisoner of a dungeon.

Grim and gritty, with evocative titles like 'A Long Way of Dying', or 'Some Swift and Brutal Hand', these are classic 'sting-in-the-tail' stories that really get to the heart of the unique feel of the Warhammer Old World. Backing them up are tales of 'Liliana Falcone: Bird of Prey'- which shows the range of stories that can fit into the Old World; a taster and script for 'Wolf Country'- which would've been Grimm's experience of the Storm of Chaos event that underpins the revived WFRP setting; and a one-off crossover quirk featuring 'Inquisitor Hellbrandt Grimm'.

These stories are well written, nicely drawn, and an atmospheric evocation of the Old World just chock full of characters and plot ideas for WFRP GM's. My only complaint about it is that, in the reduction from standard comicbook to pocketbook size, the lettering has become difficult to read, to the point of almost giving this reader eyestrain.

That old fart's gripe aside, I cannot recommend Tales of Hellbrandt Grimm too highly, for lovers of comics, dark fantasy, and WFRP alike. Good reading everyone.

And yes, I know ToHG is black and white, so not strictly 4-colour. Please direct your complaints to a certain H. Grimm, esquire, care of the Black Library. ;)

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