Eisenhorn: Xenos #0 Review
Games Workshop has such vivid imagery to their IP; it’s just annoying that they cannot create a lasting comic line based on their characters. So, a one shot to advertise a new computer game is unlikely to change that state of affairs…
Previously In Xenos: Eisenhorn is a Xenos Inquisitor for the Imperium of Man in the 40th Millennium. He was a character created for the Inquisitor game which was a large scale RPG spin off of Warhammer 40K back in the early 2000s. Since then he has been the protagonist of a trilogy of novels and now his exploits are being turned into a Pixel Hero computer game.
Promotional comics are exploitative
I have read and reviewed quite a few promotional comics, but all of them fall short to me, many in multiple ways. It feels like they are exploiting the comic buyers to provide free advertising for their real product, while actually making money on the comic and at the same time not even giving us a complete story.
It is a microcosm of the entire comic publishing industry and there are very few, if any, comic publishers out there to make money off of just comics. Don’t get me wrong, Marvel and DC make a decent profit of their comic book divisions, but their real money spinners are the big action films (less so if you are DC admittedly) and the other merchandising opportunities those films create. The comics become this background noise, constantly in print to ensure their continued ownership of the characters and as a bonus; sometimes they come up with some decent stories which the script writers can plunder later on.
Comics designed purely to market another media product, be it a game, TV show or even a breakfast cereal (that might have just been an 80s UK thing?) push this to the next level. For a start, they don’t have to make money; ideally they will at least break even, but if they help to sell the product then the company is happy with that. Secondly it is considered ‘ok’ to not even tell a whole story act, often leaving it right in the middle for the other product to pick up on.
Finally and most insidiously, if they are a decent comic with a well written plot, they might actually get you to buy the other product…
Fallen for this before
I remember a few years back I reviewed a miniseries called ‘The Last of Us’. I am one of those ‘desensitised’ people born into an era that is hard to shock and for the most part I am utterly immune to being scared, grossed out or embarrassed by TV or visual media. Except for zombies, them I cannot cope with them at all.
This comic was so good I actually thought about buying a PS3 just to play the game that spawned this comic. Then I remembered how much my wife would have hurt me for blowing that amount of money on a games console, so I found a full play through on YouTube and watched that instead.
A comic, made me watch another guy inanely prattle on for over thirty hours whilst inflicting nothing but zombies on me just so I could see how the story went. This was when I learned to hate promotional comics. I had paid for those books and would have been so happy to read more of them, even with the zombies, but instead I had to watch that terrible walk through.
I am older and wiser now and will therefore hate this book on principle
And I did, for the first page, then I started to cave. I will admit (as some may have guessed from the intro) I am a bit of a GW fanboy. I will even admit that I might have worked for them for a couple of years to pay for drinks during college. However none of this had any effect on my opinion of this books first page:
What a terrible first page. It is a full page showing Gregor Eisenhorn in all his glory, with a ridiculously oversized power sword striding through a desert city. If he had been made of wax and put in Madam Tussauds collection, he could not look any more lifeless.
Fantastic. A book that will not make me want to spend some more money on a game I don’t really want. Then they decided to turn it up a notch and everything improved page after page. By page six I was sold and when they showed the demonic possession of Gregor’s Astropath my inner nerd did a happy dance.
If you want to know everything about Games Workshop’s 40K universe, then read this 20 page comic. It shows you the brutality, it gives you the over the top action, but most importantly it does something that very few universes are comfortable doing; it shows you there are no heroes. Eisenhorn is a fascist, murdering, egomaniacal narcissist. Everything he does, supposedly in the name of the Emperor of Mankind, is about as twisted and evil as you can get, but what makes him the protagonist is that everyone else is far worse.
No other comic universe seems to give us this sort of hero-less world. Even the most hardline anti-heroes are shown to have a heart and will save the little cat, or child, or loved one. In the Warhammer 40K universe there is only war and it is brutal; the only way to survive is to be more brutal than everyone else. Unlike a lot of Sci-Fi series, where I would want to live in that time, this vision of the future is one that is terrifying and mesmerising all at the same time. I don’t want to live there, but it is sure fun going there for 20 minutes.
So despite all my misgivings, all my feelings of wanting to hate this, the part of the comic that made my day was the last page. In big bold letters ‘Continued in Eisenhorn: Xenos The Game.’ At which point my heart sunk, but followed by ‘Out now on IOS.’ Thank you, at least this time I get to play the game rather than be forced to watch an annoying person play it for me.