Issue ten of Hachette’s Warhammer 40,000 Legends Collection is the first instalment that’s an anthology of short stories, rather than a novel – in this case Ultramarines, or to give it its full, original title Legends of the Dark Millennium: Ultramarines. One of a number of anthologies in the Legends of the Dark Millennium series, it’s a collection of short stories from five different authors, all featuring the boys in blue. It’s not the first 40k Legends book to feature the Ultramarines – that would be Warriors of Ultramar – but considering the enduring popularity of this faction it’s not surprising that we should see a second book crop up so soon.
I reviewed this one back in 2017, and you can check out the review here.
Suffice to say it covers a pretty good range of named Ultramarines characters, in varying situations, with a nice mixture of authorial styles. In certain (largely online) circles there seems to be a resistance to reading about Ultramarines, and a sense that they’re bland, or ‘generic Space Marines’, which always feels a bit weird to me. I mean, it’s ok to actually dislike a faction because they’re not to your tastes, but it seems odd to take umbrage at them for simply being popular, or included in lots of games/books etc.
After all, Ultramarines are popular. Is that because they’re included in lots of things, or are they included because they’re popular? I’ve no idea. Ultimately, they are popular, and in my opinion the benefit of that being the case is that we get to see lots of different authors tackle them in different ways. You don’t like one author’s approach? That’s ok, there are plenty more for you to check out, and see if you like those more. Having that variety seems like a pretty good thing to me, and perhaps more than Warriors of Ultramar this collection works nicely as an introduction to the faction because it does tackle a range of characters in differing styles.
Thinking back to the different stories included, I’d say that three of them stand out particularly. Firstly, Gav Thorpe’s novella Catechism of Hate provides the most to get stuck into, and features Chaplain Cassius facing off against the tyranids, which is always fun. Next, while there are a few stories featuring Cato Sicarius within the collection, probably the best depiction of him comes in Graham McNeill’s Two Kinds of Fool, which nicely reverses the usual expectations of Sicarius and First Captain Agemman. Lastly, Josh Reynolds isn’t exactly known for his Ultramarines stories but his depiction of Chief Librarian Tigurius in Shadow of the Leviathan is definitely worth checking out.
As a whole it’s probably not quite as engaging for existing fans as a full novel, simply because there’s not such a hefty narrative thread to get your teeth into – Catechism of Hate is the longest story, at novella length, while the rest are short stories of varying lengths. As such, if you’re already a fan and you fancy really digging into the background of the chapter, you’re probably better off checking out one of the full-length Ultramarines novels available. If, however, you’re after some different perspectives on a familiar chapter, or you’re looking for an overall introduction, this is probably quite a good place to start. After all, it can be fun to dip into bitesize chunks sometimes.
Also, some of these stories are connected with other tales, which means they can potentially act as introductions to or continuations of existing storylines. Nick Kyme’s stories featuring Cato Sicarius are linked to his Space Marine Battles novel Fall of Damnos, while Graham McNeill’s Eye of Vengeance (not to be confused…confusingly…with Torias Telion: The Eye of Vengeance!) is loosely connected to his Uriel Ventris series. Meanwhile Shadow of the Leviathan isn’t directly connected to another Josh Reynolds story, but is part of the wider Shield of Baal arc. So if any of these whet your appetite, you’ve got plenty more to follow up with.
While it’s perhaps not the most inspiring of choices for the collection, this does work pretty well when you think back to the key purposes for these books. The way I see it, the collection is designed to provide an overview of the different factions (check, in this case) and/or take a look at some key titles in Black Library’s back catalogue. Ok, it’s hard to justify this being a key title, but it does cover some big name characters, so it sort of fits into that purpose as well. So is this going to be one of the essential titles in the collection? Probably not. Will it change your mind if you don’t particularly like the Ultramarines? Maybe, but not necessarily. Is it an interesting addition? Absolutely.
It’s worth noting, as usual, that there’s an absolute load of cool artwork included within the colour section of the book, including great pieces by the likes of Jon Sullivan and Paul Dainton, while the Raymond Swanland cover looks equally badass in black and white or full colour. Lastly, if anyone’s keeping track, this one has number 5 on the spine.