Title: Condemned by Fire
Author: Dan Abnett, Ian Edginton
Published by: Boom Studios
Publication date: 21st Oct 2008
Genre: Graphic Novel/Fantasy
Source: Private Collection
Witch Hunter Magnus Gault seeks to defeat the forces of Chaos that have transformed innocent townspeople into monstrous agents of death and destruction.
Tireless foes of Chaos in the Old World, Witch Hunters roam the Empire seeking to stop the spread of dark magic and witchery of all kinds. When Witch Hunter Magnus Gault hears that the village of Loughville has fallen prey to the canker of Chaos, he is driven to investigate. Once there, he finds the villagers wretched and mutated, transformed into agents of death and destruction eager to prey upon any lost soul who should come their way. Joined by Greatsword Franz Vogel and the dwarf warrior Vargni, Gault must take Sigmar’s light to the source of the corruption.
I picked up a copy of Warhammer: Condemned by Fire on eBay during one of my ‘Witch Hunter’ highs. It can be a rather costly book to get hold of, but the artwork is right up my street and I am rather thrilled to now own a copy.
Warhammer: Condemned by Fire follows the story of Witch Hunter Magnus Gault as he pursues Syzmon Magister across the Empire, dedicated in his task to bring Sigmars Justice down on his heretical ways. Only to discover something much, much worse as the chapters progress. Warhammer: Condemned by Fire took me back somewhat to the grim-dark of Games Workshops original Fantasy setting; that of horrible monsters and the constant fight against them. It’s highlights just how much the setting has changed since Age of Sigmar came along and it was nice to have a reminder that not everything was once as ‘pretty’ as it is now.
The main character, Magnus Gault, is as gritty as you’d expect any Witch Hunter to be and he is a delight to follow along on the story; showing off his skills, mannerisms and zealous faith. He is cut from the same cloth as other Witch Hunters from the same setting, such as Mathias Thullman and Victor Saltzpyre, so don’t expect anything overly ground breaking in the character development department and just enjoy him for the known tropes that he’ll bring with him!
As the plot unfolds additional characters are introduced; Empire Greatsword Franz Vogel – a character that has a small, enjoyable story arc of his own that plays out part way through the book and the Dwarf Vargni. These additional characters and their banter off set the seriousness of the overall tone of the graphic novel, lightening the mood slightly and adding an additional layer of enjoyment to the whole thing; without these two, the whole thing would have been much to serious to be enjoyable. I believe there was a Graphic Novel involving these characters before this one, I’ve not read it and didn’t pick up on any clues about this during reading, so Warhammer: Condemned by Fire works well enough as a stand alone and I am sure those that read and enjoyed the previous offering will be pleased to see these characters return too.
The overall plot is somewhat thin, however and while a graphic novel shows as much as it tells, what we tend to be shown is that Magnus Gault can handle himself and get out of most scrapes with relative ease – he’s got some pretty thick plot armour and none of the danger he faces tends to threaten him for very long. It’s not a story that takes much brain-power to get through but is very effective and easy entertainment. There’s lots of gory depictions of decapitations and the likes that makes for a fun afternoon read; if you’re looking for a more in-depth read then maybe try some of Black Libraries other Witch Hunter related reads.
While I do enjoy a good fight between Men and Chaos within the Warhammer setting, I was also pleased to find that Warhammer: Condemned by Fire wasn’t just the tried and tested ‘Good vs Evil,’ that seems to have become the norm. As well as the offerings of Nurgle, there’s another enemy for the Witch Hunter and his companions to face off against and their involvement within the plot comes as a refreshing surprise.
On the artistic side of things, the style is very reminiscent of what originally attracted me to read Western Graphic novels over Japanese Manga. The inks are thicker with larger areas being blocked out, surrounded by rich, vibrant colour. The darks aren’t too dark as to obscure the details in the inks yet the brightness of the colours doesn’t hamper the overall ‘darkness’ of the imagery and the whole package comes across very successfully. Considering there is a switch in artist in one of the chapters the whole graphic novel still feels consistent in both story-telling and style. (Aside in one instance Magnus is wearing a long coat, then it vanishes only to return again.)
The lettering throughout the graphic novel is clear and easy to read and follows a nice, understandable flow – pretty important to note when concerned with a graphic novels; some of the ones I’ve read have made no sense due to their formatting!
Rests heavily on the usual tropes of the ‘Witch Hunter’ genre, but a well put together graphic novel with predictable, but entertaining, characters. A nice flow to the plot that organically moves from one scene to the next. Gratifying, western-style artwork that is suitably dark for the setting, but doesn’t loose detail within that darkness.