Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Emperor's Will review

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.


  1. Must pick this up sometime. I was in Warhammer World today gazing at John's sketches and art for Dreadfleet. Incredibly inspiring stuffe!

  2. Lovely. Now all we need is a John Blanche book on miniature painting & conversions!!!

  3. this is to be seen as a source book - its not about artists or techniques for it is solely about ideas and form - a glimse into the unknown world of imperial servants both high and low - essentially a tool for those who wish to view more of the sorts of characters that infest imperial space - a couple of mistakes which nobody has spotted yet - the designers were miself and adrian wood of BL and was compiled as a saturday afternoon extra - next up MARINES ....

  4. Thanks J.B. Looking forward to the Marines tome!!!

  5. Great review! Hopefully the Marines tome will handle both the loyalists and the followers of ruinous powers.

  6. To be fair the ruinous powers have the 4 separate art books already (which are also AMAZING)

    Very naughty for you to post this - my poor credit card.

    @J.B have you ever done a "tips and tricks" type book? I would love that I wish we'd had anyone at our artschool who had actually made a living from art it would have been so useful to see.

  7. i was told at art school that i would never make a living at such art ....... sorry no tips and triks book - im not very analytical about such things just steam ahead as always - i suppose after 45 years it becomes experience .....

  8. Well those are pearls of wisdom at any rate ; )

    Infuriatingly in most cases your tutors (and mine) would be right. Which begs the question why art schools?

    I think if my sons ever express an interest in art it will be as a back up to a productive interest ... like rugby for instance ...