I am shame-faced that I have not managed to post this review until now, but better late than never...
The Emperor's Will is the new art book from GW's Black Library publishing arm. It should be considered the latest John Blanche portfolio, which is the perspective from which I will write this review. Happily it is also a contender for the title of "best Blanche tome".
The book is a hefty hardback volume typical of the new standard of book design emerging from the Nottingham studio. The binding is solid, the paper heavy, the print quality excellent and it even has a place-marker ribbon. Physically, therefore, its a winner and much better than, say, The Inquisitor Sketchbook.
The book profiles the servants of the Imperium through Blanche's own drawings and other artists' work he has selected (including Clint Langley, Kevin Chin, Dave Gallagher and all the other GW heavyweights). Blanche's offerings are the most numerous and comprise over a half of the book. Most (but I don't think all) of the work has been seen before, but these reproductions are enlarged and sometimes in colour for the first time.
On the subject on enlargement, the layout of the book is similar to other new GW titles. It eschews the bordered and maximal design of the early noughties in favour of the full-bleed images and uncluttered layout we've seen in more recent publications. In fact, it takes this to an extreme. There is almost no text and we are simply treated to page-after-page of full-bleed and often full-colour artwork free from annotation and even page numbers. The designers have made the novel decision to crop many works to emphasise the Imperial characters. Consequently the overall compositions are sometimes lost, but readers get a refreshingly close-up of the artwork revealing brush strokes, pen lines and the smudge of ink. As a designer myself, the insight this magnification provides is startling.
Though newer images dominate the compilation, there are drawings dating back to the Rogue Trader era of the 40K universe (including seminal images by the likes of Will Rees and Jes Goodwin). Some of Blanche's original plates for the first 40K rulebook are present, as are a few of his pencil sketches for the Confrontation project that followed. These latter images are reproduced larger than ever before making the tome an essential addition to the library of a Blanche fan.
In short the book is a triumph and I hope we'll see more art books in this vein. An interesting footnote is that I have just noticed an iPad version is available, perhaps marking the first of what might prove more regular forays into digital-art-compilations from GW.