In the company of death

Angels of Death

settings scifi warhammer

I've been watching the Angels of Death animated series on Warhammer+. I thought the series was over, but there have been releases of prequel episodes lately, the latest of which is In the company of Death. This review contains minor spoilers, but nothing you wouldn't learn from the episode description and from general Warhammer lore.

Death guard

Blood Angels Kazarion and Chaplain Raphael are searching for a missing space marine (Lucius, I think?) in a mining complex. You can't really tell it's a mining complex, but the episode description says that's what it is. Unfortunately for the Blood Angels, the complex is infested (you might say) with the traitorous and plague-ridden Death Guard. As they journey deeper and deeper into the complex, the threats loom larger and hope seems to dwindle.

One of the key elements of the Blood Angels' lore is their literal bloodlust. Sanguinius, their Primarch, taught them to wield their fervour during battle, but also how to keep it in check. Still, some Blood Angels succumb to their need for blood and enter a battle rage so intense and blinding that they become trapped in it permanently, turning against even their own battle brothers. As Kazarion and Raphael travel through the stench of plague and corruption, Kazarion fights to maintain control of his feverish need to kill. While this side of the Blood Angels was mentioned in the original series, I don't recall it ever being a plot point, but in this episode it's the primary source of struggle. The Death Guard are there as physical enemies, but the real war is waged with Kazarion as he fights for his own sanity, and within Chaplain Raphael as he fights to go on after one of his hearts fails after he's shot by a Death Guard.

From the many Black Library books I've read, and from the shows on Warhammer TV, I'm confident that the authors of Warhammer, more often than not, manage to give space marines something interesting emotionally to grapple with. That's why Warhammer manages to be as broadly appealing as it does. If it really were just 80s action heroes shouting as they unleash endless rounds of ammo into the meat sacks they call enemies, it would only hold the interest of a small audience. It's because even space marines are emotionally vulnerable to something, whether it's a religious zeal, allegiance to their chapter, fraternal loyalty, or something else, that their stories are relatable. One of the reasons the Blood Angels are one of my favourite chapters, though, is because the emotional struggle is built into their lore. It's really easy to show weakness in a Blood Angel. They must fight the horrors of the Black Rage! But even as they fight this, they must continue to wage war against the horrors of the traitor legions. It writes itself.

Great Warhammer

This is great Warhammer. Lots of classic Blood Angels lore, a good plot setup, some good action sequences, and a whole bunch of emotional vulnerability to tie it all together. I'd go so far as to say that this is probably one of the best episodes of Angels of Death, which is saying a lot because I enjoyed the original series and am enjoying the prequels. Of all the episodes, though, this one gets closest to what it means to be a Blood Angel.

All images in this post copyright Games Workshop.

Previous Post Next Post