This is a collection of the four issues of the Fire and Honour mini-series. Written by Graham McNeill with art by Tony Parker it’s a rugged series of battles between humans and aliens with firepower and bravery used in equal measure. The collection is 128 pages long and comes complete with a gallery of the covers from the original issues.
The Cadian 71st squad, known as the Hellhounds arrive on Baktar III for an inspection by planetary governor Montague and planning for their next mission in safeguarding Paradise City, with the unwelcome aid of other regiments, including the 33rd. Captain Hawkins, the leader of the Hellhounds has a reputation as a trouble maker, due to his fight with another squad leader, which leaves an unfavourable impression upon meeting the Russian leader of the Vostroyan Firstborn 33rd Regiment. However, their men must work together anyway and bunker down to fortify the city.
The race known as the Tau invade at night and a battle between aliens in mech suits and well armed soldiers begins, with a few fire spewing tanks thrown in for good measure. The rugged humans manage a victory, but also discover that the stuffy governor Montague may very well be in cahoots with the Tau. Of course, no-one is too happy about this, but at least the bad blood between Captain Hawkins and the Santa Claus look-alike Colonel Renko of the 33rd Regiment has dissipated.
We soon learn that Montague is indeed a traitor, having hastily promised Emissary O’Pahn of the evil Tau victory in their ambush. Boy, is he embarrassed. Meanwhile in Paradise City, those clever Tau are jamming the humans’ signals, so they can not inform high command of Montague’s treachery. It is left to Captain Hawkins to begrudgingly leave his post and tell them in person. He does so with a few friends in tanks and drives through the forest, battling fanged aliens along the way. The brave soldiers of Paradise City continue fighting to allow Hawkins and his fellow Cadians an escape. However, soon after evading the reach of the Tau’s jammers, they run out of the necessary fuel to continue to the safety of high command. Thankfully, Aurigas Point fuel refinery is not far off, and they refuel their tanks just before those tenacious Tau attack once more, leaving the tank crews detached from each other, and many men the victim of gruesome and fiery deaths. The survivors head for the aptly named Last Chance Bridge, which looks like something form Lord of the Rings, with its massive statues and towering architecture. Another battle with the Tau and an almost-battle with fellow soldiers after being branded deserters by Montague wraps the tale up.
Having played the tabletop strategy of Warhammer 40 000 many years ago, my familiarity with WH40K is not recent, but I’m glad I was able to jump in to this book with ease. Too often these worlds can be so dense with characters and history that they can be daunting to the outsider. That’s not the case here. Every soldier has a distinct look, especially the Russian Renko, with his red jacket and long white beard, and McNeill wisely makes certain that character’s names are mentioned often, to avoid any confusion of who’s who. There are a few missteps though, particularly at Renko’s death. It basically happens off-panel, which is a shame, considering he’s one of the best things about this adventure. The other noticeable error is towards the end of this tale, where the traitorous Montague is finally shown for what he truly is. This moment happens awkwardly and suddenly.
The art is fine, and in keeping with the rest of BOOM!’s WH40K various mini-series. It works in tandem with the war nature of the series, with its bloody fights, scarred soldiers and big guns. The colours aren’t vibrant either, which gives the book its battle field look. More variety in panel layouts is definitely needed though. Too often the pages simply look static. There is no real sense of motion at all, and when occasional variety is used, such as different panel borders, or full page panels, it doesn’t seem extraordinary.
Gamers and fans of the series will undoubtedly enjoy this, but for the rest of us, it’s a disapointing entry into the concept. It’s a quick read and an easy to understand tale, without bogging readers down with unnecessary details concerning politics and the Empire, but that’s not enough. It still needs something more dramatic to get it noticed amongst the other WH40K series. If you have some spare cash left over from Christmas, your best bet would be to grab one of BOOM!’s new 400 page Trade Paper Backs collecting three mini-series from both the 40K and Fantasy worlds, for a more diverse sampling. Yes, the Only War Omnibus contains Fire and Honour, but it’s not indicative of the rest of the more well crafted series in the line.