A heart-felt commendation?

Filed in Webcomic review

(From Turn Signals on a Land Raider. Click on image to see it full-sized.)

One of the problems inherent in focused theme web comics is that you sometimes risk leaving some of the audience scratching their head. This is especially true for a comic like TSOALR, which is a fun and bizarre merging of Games Workshop’s Warhammer 40K universe and the real world. For the uninitiated (and don’t worry, I’ll get back to the comic in a couple paragraphs), Warhammer 40K is a futuristic tabletop war-game, set some 38,000 years in the future. Mankind has expanded to colonize the stars, and in doing so has come across some truly bizarre alien life forms, like the tall, slender, and capricious Eldar (think “extremely high-tech elves in space” and you’ll be close to the truth), the fungoid Ork (who are pretty much Orcs, only with technology that works because they think it does), the mechanoid Necron (think “Terminator” (as in the movie)), the Tyranid (now think of the movie “Starship Troopers”), and so forth.

Surprisingly, mankind has done fairly well for itself, relatively speaking. The future is one of constant warfare, with wars fought on a multitude of planets, both against the alien and the heretic. There is a state-run religion worshipping the Emperor of Mankind, sort of a messianic figure with an attitude who sacrificed his life to put down a massive corrupt rebellion of his own super soldiers and about half of his armies. After this crippling fight, he was stuck in a life support chamber in which he’s been sealed for the past ten thousand years. And a somewhat corrupt and tyrannical group rules in his stead (not that he was all niceness and goodness when he was alive; the Emperor made multiple mistakes and probably deserved that rebellion due to his arrogance), refusing to negotiate with aliens or heretics.

While there are no good guys in this futuristic galaxy, there are those who are vile enough to still be considered “evil” even amidst all the corruption and hypocrisy; one such group is that of Chaos, manipulated by the Four Gods of Chaos. These Chaos Gods are corrupt enough that an item “tainted” by Chaos can in turn corrupt even a noble and just man. Thus when a Space Marine Sergeant takes a trophy from a Chaos Champion, it has a life of its own, and in a humorous, Lord of the Rings way, is trying to corrupt Sergeant Mountain Ash.

The cute thing is, the character itself is based on a game model piece that the cartoonist’s own son built. A good number of the pieces in the WH40K game are plastic, and this allows people to more easily “convert” models to have their own individuality. (Unfortunately, with the increase in oil prices, I predict that Games Workshop will once again up their prices, probably $5 per boxed group, and even for pewter sets that don’t have any plastic in them. Naturally, when oil prices eventually drop, the game prices won’t. But that’s just because the marketing depravement at GW doesn’t understand the concept of “pricing yourself out of the market”…)

Certain pieces look more dynamic than other, older pieces; Campbell’s son isn’t the first to take a Chaos Power Fist (which enhances the strength of the user and can tear through armor and the like easily) and use it on an Imperial Space Marine, even though they’re opposing forces. Most converters, however, tend to file off the chaos insignia; in this case, the piece was left as-is, which created a rather dynamic feel for the model, a mixture of the “purity” of the Space Marine… and the corruption of Chaos.

So Campbell decided to include the model in his comic. Further, he is creating a bit of a story around this new character, while we continue to follow the misadventures of Kren and Frep, a tank driver and gunner for the Land Raider “Super Jackhammer Carrier Tank” (basically one of the toughest tanks in the game, and thus a huge target for everyone when it appears in-game. Trust me, for one of the toughest tanks around, they tend to get blown up a lot. But I suppose that when everyone is shooting at the Land Raider, they’re ignoring other, easier targets…).

Due to some typical TSOALR mischief, Kren and Frep are forced to fight alongside the other marines as “grunts” and “ablative shielding” (I mean that literally; the other men in the squad exist to shield the men armed with heavy weaponry, to give that man a chance to get off a shot against the enemy). And Sergeant Mountain Ash is leading the group with Kren and Frep… and gets a little suggestion from his tainted power fist to “pat his men” on the back.

I did mention that power fists enhance strength and punch through armor easily, didn’t I?

I guess morale boosts can hurt, after all.

Robert A. Howard

Comment on the Forums.