Monday, March 24, 2014

Horus the Warmaster, Primarch of the Sons of Horus

Forge World's release of Horus offers yet another reason for us to open our wallets...
We knew it was coming for a while now, ever since Forge World released Angron of the World Eaters.  We have all tried our best to wait as patiently as we could, but as of last week it finally happened. We are now graced with a model for Horus Lupercal!  To fully appreciate the significance of this, it is necessary to think back to when we all got into this hobby.  Like many of us, I first learned about Warhammer 40,000 because of Space Marines.  Those little colorful armored soldiers captured my imagination, with their iconic Boltguns and bulky power armor.  And while pushing miniature warriors around a table may have been something my capricious teenage mind could have quickly gotten bored with, the rich history Games Workshop crafted around their models kept things from becoming stale.  There was alway some intriguing thread to follow and to set my mind wandering, whether from a short story, codex book, or just an axiom that adorned the border of a page in the rulebook.  But one story stood above the rest and became an integral part of my vision of Warhammer 40,000:  the Horus Heresy.  This vicious civil war set the galaxy to burn as brother Space Marine turned on  brother Space Marine.  And at the center of this conflict were two figures: the Emperor, and his most trusted son, Horus.  At the climax of the Heresy, they met in single combat.  And although the Emperor ultimately prevailed, he was left virtually dead in the process and needed to be entombed within the Golden Throne to survive (although his vitality is still a point of contention).

Both Horus and the Emperor are so iconic that it almost seems that the very act of trying to represent them in any form other than in one’s mind is conceit, and that anything less than perfect would just come off as a grave let down. There have been a few paintings and illustrations that have tried to capture their titanic duel, but all of them have ultimately fallen far short of their potential.  In spite of this, we all have a vision of what Horus and the Emperor should be, shaped by these illustrations and the accumulated lore throughout all the editions of Warhammer 40,000.  Some of the other primarchs may have been amorphous, hardly-considered concepts, but not Horus and the Emperor, so pivotal are they to the entire 40k universe.  Because of this, Simon Egan was given quite a tall order when asked to sculpt Horus of the Luna Wolves (later the Sons of Horus).  In spite of this, I believe Egan was able to rise to the occasion.  And while it is clear that he drew influence from all the major artwork that featured Horus, it is also clear that he did not allow this to bind him.  His incredible talent pooled all of these elements together with remarkable synergism, resulting in a model that is familiar, yet completely new.  And for the first time ever, in my humble opinion, the legend has been done justice.

Adrian Smith's interpretation of Horus and the Emperor. I always thought it looked like the Emperor’s sword was bent…

Egan has been sculpting character models for Forge World for a long time, making his fame by sculpting incredibly detailed and expressive faces, complete with eyebrows and even individually sculpted teeth.  Virtually all of his models are yelling, although a lot of this can probably be attributed to his subject matter (genetically enhanced killing machines in the heat of battle).  Because of this, it was extremely refreshing to see Egan start to break away from this tendency with Ferrus, gritting his teeth in concentration as he tries to lay Fulgrim low with Forgebreaker.  With Horus, I am happy to say he breaks even further from his standard with excellent effect.  He effectively captured Horus’ stern and calculating personality, but also conveyed a hint of the instability that lurks underneath.

Simon Egan’s next masterpiece: Horus Lupercal in all his glory!

Similar to what we have seen with the armor of the previous Primarchs, Egan masterfully sculpted an ornate and functional suit of armor for the Warmaster.  Known as the Serpent’s Scales, Horus’s armor is the first suit of terminator armor sculpted for a Primarch (Ferrus was close, having the first set of traditional-looking power armor).  The armor is filled with amazing little details, like the delicate chains that hold his wolf pelt in place, and all the little integrated pistons (the ones in front of the legs look to be homage to some of the previous artwork!). Although the armour is visually similar to Cataphractii terminator armor, it is highly modified and divergent from all of the previous renditions of the armor (model or illustration/painting). A glance at the scale comparison they show of Typhon makes this abundantly clear.

Horus Lupercal is monstrous in stature, dwarfing Calas Typhon of the Death Guard. Truly fitting for the Warmaster of the Imperium!

Despite there not being a model for Horus until now, people were very familiar with his signature weapon, the Talon of Horus.  The Talon was a vicious-looking lightning claw with a built-in combi-bolter, seen on Jes Goodwin’s classic model of Ezekyle Abaddon. Upon Horus’s death,  Abaddon claimed the weapon as his own (Horus used to fight with a pair of them and Abaddon only took one, until GW rewrote the history years ago, replacing one of the claws with a mace).  The Talon of Horus is thought to be a relic from humanity’s a Dark Age of Technology found with the heart of the planet Clthon (The Horus Heresy Betrayal book describes the weapon as antediluvian, ha ha). Egan does a great job working within the confines of Jes’s earlier vision of the weapon, while adding some new artistic flourishes to emphasize the weapon’s ancient origins.

A classic illustration of this epic confrontation, one where Horus still fought with a pair of lightning claws!  

One of my biggest worries about a model of Horus was how they were going to represent his power maul, Worldbreaker. Based on its weighty title and the description as ‘a power maul of prodigious size and might’ in the Horus Heresy Betrayal book, I was fearful they would make the weapon cyclopean in size. While still massive, what Egan sculpted for the weapon looks pretty good (though I still would have liked it to have been a little smaller…), following the design cues from Adrian Smith and John Blanche closely.

John Blanche’s interpretation of Horus Lupercal. His representation of the Talon of Horus is quite distinct, reminding me a little of Hellboy’s right hand of doom.

Continuing with the tradition of the other Horus Heresy characters, Horus has a two piece display base. The base shows the crumpled masonry of an Imperial staircase, depicted in such a manner as to make the viewer wonder if the ruined Imperial Eagle was his doing or that of some alien threat in the Crusade.  I think this base is the most impressive yet in the series, and it just might be the first that I will be compelled to assemble.  Mimicking the base, Horus himself is also represented in a form that could equally be from before his fall to Chaos or afterwards, giving the model a welcomed flexibility.

Horus comes with an awesome looking two part display base of a ruined Imperial staircase. 

Perhaps it is a testament to how fantastic Simon Egan’s primarch models are that I still buy them despite knowing full well that they will be a major headache to assemble?  But when such an iconic piece of Warhammer 40,000 lore gets rendered with such care and inspiration, it is hard to be too concerned with a few broken leather straps or air bubbles (as Horus is a resin model plentiful flaws are to be expected...).  So while I might not buy him immediately, I know I will given time.  It is exciting to finally have a model that strikingly conveys the state of Horus when he was on the precipice of the Heresy, straddling that line before the entire galaxy burned.

- Eric Wier


  1. I can't wait to get my hands on this kit... but I really want people to see if it really is hell to assemble.

    1. Yeah, I cannot wait to get him myself! I am sure he will go together well enough, but will just be plagued by the issues inherent in resin itself. And since the detail on him is so fine, these things (mold shifts, bubbles, etc.) are even more damaging. I suppose it is some consolation that FW is good about sending out replacement parts...