REVIEW: MORTARION'S HEART / AAUTHOR: L.J. GOULDING / PUBLISHER: BLACK LIBRARY / CAST: TIM BENTINCK, CHRIS FAIRBANK, MARTYN ELLIS, JAMIE PARKER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
One of the key appeals of the Warhammer 40,000 world is that very few details are truly carved in stone. The setting is ten thousand years long, a galaxy wide and the Imperium of Man is not a very nice place to live in. Apart from that, all of the stories are pretty much protected by the notion that every narrator is unreliable and any character in the setting who claims to know the whole truth is either crazy or lying.
Mortarion’s Heart is an audio drama centred around one of the more controversial events in Warhammer 40,000 lore. It is heavily inspired by a piece of flash fiction in one of the setting's many rulebooks (specifically Codex: Grey Knights) in which one of the Imperium’s many heroes, Kaldor Draigo, humiliates Mortarion, a major villain in the 40K Universe. Fans expressed unhappiness in the way that Draigo (a new character) was being set-up as some sort of indestructible champion and that the short account was obviously missing key details. Given such a furore by the fans, a fully cinematic audio production of the battle seemed almost inevitable.
Mortarion’s Heart is a solid adventure story in which super-powered space paladins beat up a horde of demonic plague demons. Grey Knights make for fairly two-dimensional characters at the best of times as they’re pretty much huge men in huge armour who use big hammers and magical powers to smite the wicked and not much else. But then if you wanted subtle you wouldn’t be listening to a Black Library Audio. Rather than lament these limitations, the production plays into them by giving us a title-match-style fight. This is Rocky, but in space. Okay, so instead of a boxing ring we have planet-wide war and the combatants are a Demon-Primarch and a bloke in power armour but the tune is essentially the same – someone tries to defeat the big bad, fails, and then a plucky upstart comes in at the last minute and we have a desperate battle royale. It’s a very, very simple story presented in an epic way. For the most part it works and even though it’s a little saggy in the middle (too much talking, not enough punching), it’s entertaining in an action movie sort of way.
Production wise its spot on; from the giggling little plague monsters to the buzzing flies, the soundscape is crafted well. The set comes with a script, wallpaper and the usual extras and all told it’s nicely presented. Fans of the Grey Knights will love this and casual fans will have a blast as well.