Black Library’s series of Space Marine Battles books started in 2010 with Steve Parker’s Rynn’s World, and since then has expanded to contain well over a dozen novels and more than twenty assorted novellas, short stories and audio dramas. 2014 saw two notable additions to the series, in the shape of Andy Smillie’s Sons of Wrath (initially released as a First Edition), and the art book Visions of War (also initially a First Edition). A beautifully-presented hardback filled with a range of artwork from the series so far, it showcases the incredible work of artists such as Jon Sullivan, Kai Lim and Clint Langley (amongst others), and includes short stories from LJ Goulding and Anthony Reynolds.
The novel covers have been dominated by Jon Sullivan’s intense, detailed artwork, so it’s only appropriate that his work is heavily featured in the book; from the embattled Scythes of the Emperor on the cover (for Heloth, one of the included short stories) to a double page spread of Kairos Fateweaver (Architect of Fate) in all of his full glory, it’s great to see his work on a larger scale than usual. That’s true in fact of all of the artwork here, the almost-A4 format (as well as a couple of gatefold sections) allowing more detail than usual to be visible, not to mention showing the full artwork, much of which is obscured or simply not included when wrapped around the cover of a book. Personal taste will determine each person’s highlights, but it’s an absolute joy to browse through and spend some time really drinking in the detail that’s included in all of these pictures.
Most pieces are accompanied by snippets from their relevant books, as flavour text and reminders of the events of each story. It’s all laid out nicely, the text enhancing the artwork rather than detracting from it, and seeing the two elements side by side is a great reminder of just how important the art is to these stories. Of the two short stories included, The Thrill of the Hunt by Anthony Reynolds was originally published in the Angels of Death anthology, while Heloth by LJ Goulding is brand new and (currently) exclusive to Visions of War. The first is a micro-short which sees a White Scar seemingly on the back foot against his eldar foes, while Heloth looks at the Scythes of the Emperor’s 2nd Company as they fight for their lives against the unending tyranid swarms. Both are entertaining, but it’s Heloth that satisfies the most; a gripping, bleak snippet of typical 40k grimdark.
For fans of the Space Marine Battles series this is a great opportunity to really delve into some wonderful visualisations of the stories, from a selection of incredible artists, and a nice reminder of just how many great tales there are in the series. Fans of sci-fi art in general will find much to appreciate here as well, as it is essentially a collection of excellent pieces of artwork, able to be enjoyed whether you know the background or not.