Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Ballads of War. Final pages

This is it. This is all I got, four more pages. In fact, the last one is incomplete. I had it in pencils only, but as I had to translate it for the blog, I've painted it at least in crude b/w with photoshop.

First of all, some comments on the pages above.

We finally discover Brent's secret about his strenght. Not that it really adds anything relevant to the story, but it was something I wanted to reflect; the fact that terraforming cannot be an absolutely precise process, and that it's impossible for all the planets in the galaxy to have the very exact conditions we have on Earth. So this had to translate into some effects in the inhabitants of different worlds. This was all the reasoning behind. I planned at some point to have some characters talking about that, about planets with unbearable conditions, worlds with blue grass and green skies, that sort of things, going a step beyond the classic Star Trek/Star Wars concept of all planets being equally apt for all species to live on their surface.

Let's move on. Brent is captured! The NSFW stuff is not gratuitous. I gave it a thought and it seemed plausible that the ruthless Imperial captors treated a prisoner in such a way. In fact I think we all have seen worse things in the news on actual events I won't speak of.
But we have a new player! Right, an Imperial Inquisitor. The usual choice for a character of this kind would be a middle aged mysterious man, preferably of a different ethnic origin than the leading character. Yeah, have a look at cinema, comics or pop culture in general. But I gave it a second thought and decided that this would be a perfect role for a woman. Nowadays it looks quite normal for us having powerful, strong women in this kind of roles; a Cersei Lannister or whatever. But please keep in mind this was ten or twelve years ago, women older than 30 in these roles were the exception, not the rule. I really wanted to explore the possibilities of this kind of character. She was meant to be the real mastermind of the plot. Ahh... let me tell you about the plot, what I was supposed to draw...

(Is it still a spoiler if the story is unlikely to be told...? Hmmm...)

We start right in the last panel we have above. We discover that Brent Beronis was actually a Major in the Imperial Guard Stormtroopers. Well, that's not a regular profile for a deserter. If you remember the Appendix of Vol. 1, I misled the reader's attention through a false path. In 1x26, Arbos Holdstat presumes that Brent must be a sarge or something like that, as he knows how to lead. In the long text of the Appendix, I stated there was a Sergeant in the Stormtroopers who told stuff to the narrator. There are a couple of hints here and there leading you to the wrong direction. In the Appendix of Vol. 2 I was to tell the real story of how and why Brent deserted. Not really relevant for my current purposes, just wanted to state that he is actually somebody, and it can be used for the Inquisitor's purposes...
Three millenia ago (or any WH40K absurd amount of time), Salar Beronius, Hero of the Imperium, led the Imperial Armies through a righteous crusade. Right, the last name should ring a bell. Brent Beronis is the direct descendant and last of that lineage. That's a relevant fact. Salar Beronius, then a widower (after parenting the mentioned line of direct descent), got entangled in a harsh campaign beyond Imperial borders. There he was seduced by an exotic woman. What he didn't know is that she was a witch, a worshipper of the Dark Powers, who gave birth to a child, a boy who was tainted from birth. In a Greek tragedy style story, the child would grow to finally kill his father, who ended his days in despair. Long story short, the boy would finally rise until he ascended to the rank of Daemon Prince. He was known by the name of Ihridur Moratar. His many evil deeds were put to an end by the Grey Knights, who managed to imprison him, as he was too powerful to be slain.
But in recent times, just four or five years ago, a Chaos conspiracy has succeeded, and Ihridur Moratar has been set free. It will take some time for him to fully recover, but it is known that he is gathering new forces and he is gaining strenght again. The Inquisition is not particularly happy about that, so it has been decided to put an end to Moratar for good. But for a full exorcism to succeed, some blood of the Daemon is needed. That's an issue. If only we had some blood of the same line... oh, wait. We have one Beronis at hand! Well, at hand... he's a deserter. That is the real reason behind all we have seen until now, that's why Commissar Bajakian has been pursuing him for so long. Not to put him under arrest, but to use him against the Daemon Prince, as planned by the Inquisitor. By now it is clear that the dreams and visions Brent is experiencing come from that evil ancestor.
Besides, as Beronis is a rank officer in the Imperial Guard, the Inquisitor has forged some kind of 'prophecy' which says that Ihridur Moratar's very own blood would be his bane. The Inquisitor and the Commissar will promote Beronis and make a leader of him. This way, by showing off the man who presumedly is destined to kill him, they expect Moratar to rush and make a mistake, marching to battle before he's totally ready. Then, Volume 2 was to end with our fugitives being incorporated to the Inquisitor detachment and Brent shaving and fitting into uniform back for active duty. About El'Kais... well, the Inquisitor's Savant would discover some interesting facts. For example, Tau build their names around their chaste and relevant life facts. So a name like Por'El Tolku Kais Montyr Blahblahwhatever would refer to the Water Chaste... diplomat? He stated in 2x11 that humans used that word in a restrictive way. One could say that he is in charge of relations with other peoples and races, to gain knowledge of them, to learn about their lives and capabilities... we could even say to obtain intelligence of potential adversaries... So El'Kais was openly stating to everyone just with his name that he was a damn spy :D So, being the Tau 007, he has broken out of his containment cell and has vanished...

From this point on, the following Volumes were thought as a escalation of force, in which we could see the kind of conflicts you can play in the WH40K universe, from regular skirmishes to a final, apocalyptic battle (a game of Epic).

Volume 3 would have started with Commissar Bajakian having a lecture of Imperial Tarot (I wanted to show as much fluff depth as possible) and it was all about planning movements and building the prophecy up, so its first steps could be fulfilled in order to draw attention from Ihridur Moratar. We were to learn about the Inquisitor and her motivations, that helping the reader to have a better insight of the Imperial/Chaos cosmogony. Brent helps El´Kais to escape away from Imperial control and receives his gratitude (this will be relevant ahead).
In addition, the Inquisitor is curious about those Eldar and what was Brent doing with them. The Mausoleum is off-limits now, as the planet is under Eldar control, but doing reverse engineering, they investigate the source of the rumours that led the Mechanicus expedition to that point. They travel to a planet with a Mechanicus archaeological site, in which they discover a Necron Tomb (In my imagination it was some Necron Xi'an). Things get complicated when they discover a Chaotic Cult infiltration within the Imperial garrison/population (I guess that some Dark Mechanicus would be in place too, but this is a new idea just ocurring to me right now). The struggle leads to partial activation of some of the dormant Necrons (uh-oh) and a desperate battle ended only by Arbos Holdstat's cunning lateral thought, delivering a massive EM pulse and rendering the Necrons inactive.
By the end of the Volume we learn about the obscure Mausoleum and what does Chaos have to do with all this. Keep in mind that, at the moment I designed all this, the C'Tan were four stellar gods reigning over the immortal slaves known as Necrons, as opposite to current background. Within the Mausoleum lies a fifth C'Tan, killed by the Emperor and the Eldar in the days of the Great Crusade, and kept secret since then. Its corpse is still so powerful that it could unleash havoc through the galaxy. Hence the sarcophagus and the amount of energy needed to keep it sealed.
BTW, you remeber Cypher being the guardian of the site? Please check his Codex profile and you'll see he owns a C'Tan knife. Here we have the explanation; he took part in that battle and earned the weapon, falling over him the burden of guarding the mausoleum. The Chaos cult is no other than Ihridur Moratar's own followers. He had learned about it and he will try to seize the corpse's power to regenerate himself to full strenght and even taking him to further steps. What could not he achieve with the power of a god? Could he even tame the abhorrent powers of the null void of the C'Tan? Well, whatever. Now you see that all was connected in this story :P

Volume 4 starts with an Eldar conclave, opening with a representation of Eldar history by the Harlequins. The Eldar have to decide what to do now that they have the corpse. The planet is safe no more, as they don't have the stregth to keep it against the mon-keigh (that's why they needed the Tau, but they are out of the scene now). Biel Tan will have to keep it as a temporary solution, but they have to find a definite one, as it would drain the Craftworld and its energy. The Harlequins will try to find a solution in the volumes of the Black Library.
Meanwhile, Brent & co. are travelling to a warzone, in which Brent will have to take command of Imperial forces to fulfil his destiny, get well known, blah blah. Perfect excuse for a spaceships battle against a Chaos fleet (a game of BFG; no one can resist that). Our heroes meet a small detachment of Space Marines (I thought of Black Templars, as their fleets are constantly wandering, but other Chapters would serve as well) and they all fight along.
The Inquisitor takes a risky path, as she decides to strike Eldar Pirates positions in the surroundings. That wasn't in the plans, but they finally strike, as it gives credibility to Brent's position, being a new Hero of the Imperium, standing against all. In the battle, Vix is taken prisoner (among many others), as she was posted on an underdefended position. Brent goes mad (by now the romantic tension between Vix and him should be noticeable) and blames the Inquisitor, but she plays cool (or 'machiavellan', I should say). The Eldar Pirates (i.e., Dark Eldar) may kill other prisoners, but not Vix, not one of their own. The Pirates operating area is usually off-limits by old tradition and treaties. No one has dared to enter in many centuries, despite the pirates being a pain in the ass. But now things have changed. The Inquisitor invokes an old decree, allowing any Inquisitor to take any actions required to recover personnel in the service of the Inquisition who is held captive. Wink, wink.
It's a golden opportunity because, as the Inquisitor had learned, the Space Marines were to rendezvous with large scale forces of their own. So they all together prepare to strike the Dark Eldar position...

Volume 5 starts with Vix having nightmares; we get deeper knowledge of her and the whole Eldar/Dark Eldar problematic relationship. After some insights of the Dark Eldar settlement and society, we of course witness an orbital attack by the Space Marines (who doesn't like drop pods?). Though Vix is finally rescued relatively unharmed, the trust in the Inquisitor has been somehow damaged (don't you say!). Ahem. The romantic interest between Brent and Vix is built, but won't lead them to a relationship (you know, the tension cliche as a storytelling resource along the whole series always works).
After that, Brent formally takes charge of his command and is promoted, claiming the enemy's attention. My script for this part was a little loose, but I wanted some dialogue scenes between Brent and the leader of the Space Marines, who was injured by a Dark Eldar poisonous weapon. This serves the purpose of getting into the mind of the Space Marines, how they are nothing else than weapons and how far they are from vulgar human emotions. If any, I wanted to include some reflections of how the Space Marine Captain never really wanted that life, but he was predetermined to it; taken as a child for war, he has seen the worst things the galaxy can offer, but once he begun his path, he could never go back to a life of peace. This is his duty and he will die that way. You know, I wanted to take a different path from some BL novels that depict Space Marines as mean-spirited men with normal emotions. He finally dies after a long agony and is granted a proper funeral.
This way, Brent gives a thought about his duty, so he finally makes the imposed mission as his own. An attempt of assasination against him is the first sign that the plan goes right (yeah, that's the way things work in Warhammer, you know). In the middle of that, the Inquisitor saves Vix's life nearly losing her own, so things get a little better between them. We also receive notice that a powerful Tau Armada is mustering, with unknown purpose; that will be relevant ahead.

Volume 6 begins with a nightmare of a new character. A nightmare of Marneus Calgar himself, remembering the events in the campaign of Ichar IV. Tyranids and all that stuff. Nowadays, in the depth of an Imperial city, a Cult awakens and a long time hibernated egg/thing/whatever opens to life. Dun dun dunnn.
As part of the prophecy, Brent has to claim an ancient weapon (another Warhammer classic). A spear or a hammer, I never got decided about that. It belonged to his ancestor, Salar Beronius, and is revered as a valuable relic. The only problem is that is is kept... bingo, in the holy city where the Genestealer Cult has just manifested. After some intrigues about the Cult and stuff, the Ultramarines and the Sororitas try to evacuate the pilgrims and inhabitants of the city before the Tyranid Hive Fleet arrives. This way we have a Volume devoted to the best Starship Troopers tradition, with a game of Space Hulk in some deep catacombs until our heroes face the big bug boss (and prevail, of course). But this time we begin to have some casualties. The twins (I bet you forgot about them! But by now they should have had some more scenes and get your sympathy). During the combats, Ari is killed and his sister Arieh, in an outburst of rage, get herself killed too, no one being able to do anything about it.
By the end of the Issue, Brent (now having the company of the Ultramarines) travels to get closer notice of the Tau, maybe to settle a meeting. First contact is kind of cold, as the xenos don't trust the humans. Only El'Kais coming out saves a situation coming to a confrontation. Old reencounters and so. Besides, Brent receives an unexpected visit. Cypher comes back. I have been watching you, boy, and that kind of speech. They have a sincere exchange of impressions and they both take the oath to destroy the C'Tan corpse, with Cypher committing to help when needed.

Volume 7 starts with a ceremony of the Dark Angels. We see Sgt. Moustache (remember him?) ascended to the ranks of the Deathwing, so the awful, painful secrets of the Chapter are revealed to him with proper flashbacks for the reader. Elsewhere, Blood Angels Sergeant Cleon (the one we already met) prepares for battle, as the hordes of Ihridur Moratar have finally manifested and march ahead thirsty for war. It will be on a planet where the Eldar are resuppling Biel Tan, due to their current necessities. In a crazy game of enemities and alliances, all the actors we saw in Volume 2 (Eldar, Blood Angels and Dark Angels) will have to confront each other and finally fight together against Chaos forces.
When Brent & co arrive, war is at its most. Chaos outnumbers everybody. Finally, Menelvagor, the Eldar ship, is taken down, High Farseer Ellinderelion on board. Chaos forces seize the rests and take the C'Tan sarcophagus. Glups!
A War Council is summoned. On behalf of the Eldar, the Great Harlequin gets back and leads the delegation. Dark Angels are extremely reluctant to take part, but Blood Angels don't have that problem. Brent comes with the power of the Imperial Guard, the Inquisition (a few Ultramarines maybe? Never really decided that) and the fragile alliance with Tau. The menace is too high, they all have to work shoulder with shoulder.
A diversion must be taken to retrieve some Chaos troops from the ground. So a small army will be sacrificed employed in a massive attack, a retreat and later ambush to the Chaos pursuers. We would have some battle action and the death of Commissar Bajakian while epicly containing the enemy hordes.
The real problem is the siege of Ihridur Moratar's fortress. The void shields generators must be destroyed, so a small force will have to strike the facilities, allowing the big, massive army to attack the fortress. But it happens to be a hard nut to crack, and suddenly everything goes terribly wrong, so Vix has finally to take charge of the whole operation and stay to make sure the explosives make proper detonation and the whole compund is blown away. Of course that means she accepts her own sacrifice. Radio link remains open, Brent commanding Vix to evacuate and so, until they both accept the fate of things and remain to the verge of declaring their love... when the explosives detonate and the void shields go down.
Burst in tears, Brent leads the Imperial Army and gives the order to the final assault.

Volume 8 begins with Blood Angels Sgt. Cleon succumbing to the Black Rage, so we have visions of the Horus Heresy and the Siege of Terra intertwined with the current battle. All the first part of this issue is about a huge battle. I mean huge. Armoured divisions, Titans and all that. Legions of daemons, Space Marines and people dying all over. Cypher coming, Cleon dying heroically, you get the idea. As apocalyptic as I could have ever designed and drawn it. The thing is that the action will finally conduct us to Brent reaching the chambers in which Ihridur Moratar is unlocking the sarcophagus and executing the ominous rituals to extract the essence of the C'Tan corpse. It would be quite a classic encounter, with more people succumbing and finally reduced to the clash of the hero (supported by the Inquisitor) and the daemon. The opening of the sarcophagus would unchain some kind of apocalypse, everything collapsing all over and Ihridur Moratar becoming more powerful as he absorbs the energy. All the psykers the Inquisitor has brought to shield Brent die one after another (I didn't have Grey Knights in mind then, but now it also looks like a logical decision). Anyway, no big surprise; if we have gone through 8 comics, we can expect Brent to kill the bad guy in extremis in the last minute after an epic struggle. Closing the sarcophagus back again would be the last post-climax confrontation trope, of course.
After that, we have a mess of ruins everywhere, and the Inquisitor reminds us all that the C'Tan energy dispersed through the galaxy will be something to deal with, and for that they will need to co-operate with the Eldar (as for dealing with the corpse itself). An alternate ending could be Ihridur effectively absorbing the whole C'Tal essence; so when he dies, the sarcophagus becomes irrelevant. Both things could work, I guess.
The thing is that we finally close the saga with a bittersweet feeling about the body count, but with a slight optimistic nod to the future, as today's battle has been won.

Well, of course this is a VERY brief synopsis, I have tons of annotations in notebooks with character development and interaction, plots and sub-plots, discarded ideas and the like. I had very clear since the beginning that I wanted to build a romantic relationship between Brent and Vix and that it would be quite a pillar for both characters as it slowly grew, but never coming to the climax. That would be totally scattered at the moment of Vix sacrificing herself for Brent and all his beliefs and mission. This was a centerpiece I haven't talked about too much above, but was essential. The characters had a road to tread, from the rogue fugitive cliche (mean, selfish, whatever) to the point in which they took the narrative upon themselves, earning redemption by doing so.
This was kind of a compendium of WH40K races and armies, I wanted to show a bit of everyone. Some of them were better integrated than others, but I guess that, though some slight review would benefit the whole plot, it worked more or less.

Now, what about the future? I told in a few occasions that I felt I couldn't keep on with the comic as it was originally conceived. The amount of work you have to put on this is enormous, and I felt quite frustrated to see GW official background moving out from its previous settings and replacing full approaches to races and situations (e.g. Necrons, Inquisition, or the whole new fluff earthquake). I wanted to do nothing but a simple story that could fit in the general background, but to accomodate my story to the current line of events I should have to rewrite some major things and redo pages. Sorry, but I felt disencouraged.

I've told you about my idea of rebooting the story, but setting it into my very own universe, far from 40K. In fact I got to draw the very first pages. Here you have an example. This is the double splash page from Vol. 1. Instead of a hive city, I developed this:

That's my top in digital art at the moment. You can bet, I've spent some months on it, it's thought for A3 size.

But once more I'm afraid I currently lack the time and dedication I need to commit myself to such an endeavour. To do that I would have to quit painting minis and devote myself to properly learning photoshop. I'm not even talking about rewriting the story. Maybe some day, but I don't see it happening in the near future, to be honest.

Well, this is it! I can state this has been the longest post I've ever written for the blog, haha! I hope you have enjoyed it. All C&C is always welcome, of course. About absolutely anything; the comic itself, the art, the unfinished project, whatever you have in mind.
Thanks to all of you who have commented during this whole adventure, your kind words encouraged me for every new installment and meant a lot, for this, as you can guess, was quite a personal project with a lot of dedication.

I'll be back in a few days with more minis. Seasonal minis! I can say no more, stay tuned...


  1. Oh, final?
    A lot of AWESOME and EPIC work!
    Thank You so much!

    1. Thank you for your constant encouragement! I really couldn't get anywhere without that!

  2. I really enjoyed reading your installments Suber. Thank you so much for putting in the effort, I can see that they took quite a lot of work.

    Loved it :)

    1. Thank you very much. It was a lot of work indeed, but I have to say it also was enormously rewarding. Beyond the quality of the art, it's quite satisfactory seeing a comic grow and a story develop.

  3. Great stuff! I am sad that it has ended (for the foreseeable future).

    Although it would be interesting to see what all these characters look like in miniature if you have enough interest to expand things that way...

    1. Thank you! Well, in fact I got to do that with Brent in his outlaw version:
      I wanted to do the same with the rest, but sadly never got to do that :(

  4. Great work my friend it has been a rocky road for sure!

    1. Thank you! Revisiting such an old work has been quite a fun thing to do. I have spent this whole last year reading and translating it, recalling the decisions I made back in the day, and oh, I really, really miss drawing and writing. I need more hours in the day, hahaha!