Warhammer TV is part of the Warhammer+ subscription service from Games Workshop. With Warhammer+, subscribers enjoy benefits like premium app access, Warhammer hobby shows, like miniature painting masterclasses and thrilling battle report, as well as original Warhammer animations. There is also a vault packed full of lore from classic Warhammer publications.
In this article, we review episodes 1-3 of the Warhammer TV Anthology series “Hammer and Bolter”. Is this series worth watching? What’s the style, art, and substance of the show like? Check out our first impressions with a plot discussion with spoilers below.
Animation Manga Style
The animation process that Hammer and Bolter uses follows the anime tradition popularized in Japan. It is an efficient and elegant system of animation that uses as few frames as possible to convey information to the audience.
Movements are recycled, large action is conveyed with grand poses and little movement, and dynamic backgrounds sell the intensity of the action.
Every so often computer generated models are inserted to add an extra depth to a scene. The insertion of these CGI assets allows for faster movements to enhance the explosive action of the scenes in which they are featured.
Art with a Nostalgic Twist
Though the animation in Hammer and Bolter is in the anime style, the art is reminiscent of late-90’s to early-2000’s. Namely, Hammer and Bolter reflects some of the popular superhero cartoons that were so popular during this time period. I will note that for some older tabletop gamers, this period was also kind of a golden era for many Warhammer 40k fans.
I am reminded of Eric Radomski’s and Bruce Timm’s run with DC Comics properties Batman, Superman, and Justice League animated series. It is a aesthetically pleasing art style that allows for dynamic faces, dangerous looking bodies, and of course grim dark backgrounds.
The colors are all deep golds and reds, dark blues and greens, and dark shadows are layered on top of anything bright. The color contrast and vibrancy are all reminiscent of those cartoons that many us grew to love and fondly remember watching after school, or on those lazy morning weekends before the day’s buzz ramped up.
Music and Sound Track
Synthetic tones reminiscent of electric organs or horns combined with haunting and jangling string instruments frequently accompany scenes about the dystopic Imperium of Man. The music conjures a growing sense of dread and fear.
A marriage of classic composition and futuristic instruments is the perfect soundtrack for a civilization set in the far future, and yet so blatantly privative, dark, violent, and superstitious. Action scenes still use the electric sounds but they pick up frantic pace, punctuated with deep and booming drums.
The third episode Hammer and Bolter (and my favorite so far) centers around the Orks and the sounds of the Imperium are mostly set aside in favor of rock hard guitars and rolling booming drums. Its metal.
I am excited for future episodes of Hammer and Bolter. I am excited to see new corners of the Grimdark galaxy in the 41st millennium and hear the music that accompanies the chaotic hordes of demons, the graceful Aeldari, the ancient Necron, the upstart T’au and the nightmarish Druchari.
Post Apocalyptic, Dystopian or Just “Grimdark” Themes
Each episode is only about 20 minutes long. With no commercial interruptions these episodes are quick. The themes of the first two episodes so far are what we are used to when it comes to the Imperium of man: Grim, dark, dystopic, with characters struggling to contain despair, paranoia, and madness.
The threat of violence is ever present and it can erupt at any moment. The third episode was a breath of fresh air. It was the boomiest, dakka-iest, stabby-iest and greenest episode so far. Yes, you can guess what all this means. I was quite pleased.
Brief Summary and Spoilers
Episode 1: Death’s Hand
An Inquisitor anxiously attempts to avert his own death. Several prophets with tarot decks and have warned him of his impending death. He angerly and arrogantly murders those that do not provide him with the news he wishes to hear.
The source of his anxiety is that he is due for an investiture, a promotion, into the higher ranks of the Imperium’s Inquisition. His paranoia is piqued when an old friend and fellow inquisitor arrive to “escort” him.
The two men, that in the past fought on the same side, now heavily distrust each other in this moment. The conversation turns violent, and each retinue believes that they have the other in a trap.
There are barely any survivors. An Imperium Assassin, one of the deadliest agents of the Imperium, is captured and interrogated by our “hero”.
He is confident that he finally escaped the fate the tarot deck revealed to him, only to be ambushed in a moment where he felt that he was completely secure. His death furthers the agenda of whatever competing Imperial forces. I wonder if we will return to this story in the future.
Episode 2: Bound for Greatness
The slowest paced of the three episodes is also the most atmospheric. The subject of this story is not a mighty inquisitor, or a space marine, or enigmatic or brutal alien warlord, but a regular man with perhaps one of the most bureaucratic and dystopic day jobs in fiction.
This protagonist is a librarian in a library filled with millions of books, every one of them forbidden to be read, and within the halls of the library are the never ending blaring of imperial propaganda. His duty is to the count the books every single day.
This is madness in more ways than one. Books seem to appear and reappear. The librarian begins to hear voices from the books. As he tries to tell someone, he finds himself too scared to mention it.
He suspects (and rightly) that his doom approaches. He cracks under the pressure and begins to read the book that calls to him. Knowledge is dangerous.
Episode 3: Old Bale Eye
A celebration of lore as old as the hobby itself. This a retelling of the epic rivalry between Commissar Yarrick and Warboss Ghazkull Mag Urak Thraka, from the Ork point of view. We see the important moments in Yarrick’s career.
How he got his signature klaw, the heroic defense of Hades Hive on Armageddon, his hunt for the warboss and the capture and “escape” from Ghazkull, and his return to service.
Twenty minutes of the greenest and meanest and savage content yet. Though Orks are often cited as the comedic relief of the hobby, the ending of the story reveals a nobility and honor inherent in Orks that perhaps even Space Marines lack.
>End of Spoilers
Key Points: Hammer and Bolter Anthology Series Review Ep.1-3
- Hammer and Bolter is an original offering currently available on Warhammer TV (a video streaming service with Warhammer Plus)
- The Hammer and Bolter anthology series has a lot of potential for grimdark storytelling
- This article reviews the first 3 episodes with first impressions: Is this series worth watching? Yes! If you’re a fan of the Warhammer 40k universe, you’ll get a tasty morsel of what’s yet to come with Warhammer TV.
I am very excited for the future of this series and eagerly wait for episodes. I hope that the animation increases in quality. The music and art fits the setting like a glove.
I think it will do well if it spends more time exploring the point of view of the alien societies and antagonists of man. I always felt we rarely get content that is not from the Imperium’s view point.
The grimdark future of the 41st millennium has so much potential stories to tell. I am excited to see not only brand new never contemplated stories, but also the epic and new retellings of the familiar stories.
About the Author
Jared Emanuel is a hobby enthusiast that loves high fantasy, science fiction, and everything in between.