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After a short delay, Bellarius gets back to Scars by Chris Wraight with a look at Episode VII.
“A step forwards, setting up what is to come, but at risk of taking a step back.” – Bellarius, The Founding Fields
Episode VI saw an end to the White Scars story as previous canon went. While deviating considerably from what we got in Index Astartes and the Collected Visions books, we saw the legion departing the battle between the Space Wolves and Alpha Legion. With both forces left behind along with any expectations of what was to follow, Episode VII now follows the tale taking a new route. Not only returning to the original themes of the book now the Space Wolves are out of the way for the moment, but also expanding upon the knowledge of the legion.
The good news is this is exactly what the serialised novel needed. The bad news is that not all of the new additions to the White Scars are good.
Foremost among these is a bit more of an exploration of who they are and why they have been so forgotten. This has been put down to the way in which the legion operates at least in part, but other previously foreshadowed elements are clearly in play. A section featuring a captain of a traitor legion highlights this extremely well where it almost seems as if a White Scars psyker blocks the last several minutes from his mind. The downside is the way in which the legion’s relation to the Warp is explained is infuriating at best. It makes them look to be exactly what the Heresy needed to stop Horus, Magnus, Fulgrim etc before anything went wrong, but didn’t because of their own isolationist policies. This will likely be expanded upon later, but the way in which it is initially introduced is more frustrating than it is interesting. If it is further expanded upon in later chapters then it will be a boon to the novel, but at the moment it feel more like an aggravating tumour of a retcon.
On the upside is the re-introduction of the lodges within the legion who are beginning to play a more prominent role. Forced into the background for multiple parts, they stay long enough to have a prominent role and suggest an interesting future. Something made especially clear when a remarkably well contained plot point comes full circle within the episode showing how far their influence stretches. As they are shown communicating with an unseen force, it might be working to build upon the legion’s flaws even as Wraight explores their strengths. A definite bonus given Wraight’s unfortunate habit of focusing purely upon flaws, introducing new shortcomings and occasionally exaggerating their failings.
Yes there was an Iron Hands marine in this, and yes you can guess how he was treated.
Well, that’s not being entirely fair. Unlike previous outings the astartes’ belligerence and opposition to others is used as a point to further explore some of the nature of librarians within the legions. As is their affinity for technology, which proves to be an effective counterpoint against Nikea. Unfortunately as Yesugei’s role within this is to once again argue the point of librarians and explore the legion’s use of them, he gains little from what we saw last time. Remaining largely a tool to explore certain details rather than a character, what we get is adequate but not quite enough to make him feel as great as previous examples.
Shiban similarly remains something of a cypher, only having a relatively small amount of his sub-plot progressed since the books beginning and Torghun is somewhat the same. At least in the latter’s case however, there are more characterful signs to utilise with his personal dislike for the legion and its ways. Something which oddly works to make the scene far more interesting given his allies’ use of sorcery.
While the episode definitely has great pacing and benefited with a single legion to focus upon, it feels as if it’s promising more to come. Setting up things once again to be truly progressed now we’re done with the White Scars reacting to the Alpha Legion and civil war. There’s not much actually bad here, it’s just it feels as if it’s just trying to get going again now the Space Wolf stuff is finished.
What really buoys the episode up is easily the Khan himself. Like the other characters he has remained something of an enigma, but we see more flashbacks to previous events: A mass discussion between several primarchs at Ullanor. Nothing featuring them talking about tactics, just reacting to Horus’ ascension and with a more personal conversation than before. It’s a short scene but one well-handled.
Still you know the drill after six of these: It’s good, but wait until you can get the full book. Don’t buy these as episodes, they don’t work well in this format.