Sunday, August 3, 2014

Death Mask

Death Mask by Cavan Scott. A Sanctus Reach short story, originally published by The Black Library, July 2014. Approx. 27 pages.

HachiSnax Note: The version of Death Mask that I am reviewing is the initial release, which was billed as a Sanctus Reach short story. This has more to do with the cover than anything else, since it now being sold as an "Imperial Assassins" story, with a different cover background color arrangement.

On the world of Ghul Jensen, within the Sanctus Reach, Hive Vinter has fallen to the underhab gangs. The old saying regarding "the animals having the keys to the zoo" comes to mind. A strange mould is forming and spreading along the out walls. And, until the constant harassment of burning acid rain, a company of Guardsmen hold a defensive ring around the Hive, waiting for the miscreants inside to starve and die out.

Out of the sky falls a pod, and from that pod a figure emerges. This figure is no Angel of Death, yet from his actions to his grim skull mask, he represents the epitome of death. With blinding speed, this warrior heads into the Hive, cutting a swathe through all the heretics that stand in his way.

Wait, heretics? I thought it was hive gangers that overtook Vinter? Well, actually it is both. In Death Mask, Cavan Scott introduces a heretic the like of which I have never seen; human worshipers of Gork (or is it Mork? No, it's definitely Gork). These wannabe orks have done their best to copy orky culture, from emulating speech patterns to filing their teeth, using the green mould like a narcotic (to get closer to Gork), and self-mutilating via green ink (the mould again?) tattoos to try and get the correct skin hue.

Cavan Scott seems to have a lot of fun writing for this heretical cult. Through the eyes of the tortured, deposed former Governor Vinter, we see the leader of the would-be greenskins, the hulking brute known as Big Bruvva. Scott also plays up the physicality of these cultists, and, injects a good amount of humor into the scenes involving them. You can't help but get a chuckle at the expense of this group. Orks in the 40K universe are a twisted parody of humankind, and these gangers are a parody of ork-kind.

Which makes them just pathetic enough to be on par with juggalos. I got a good laugh at that thought until I remembered how many juggalos live in my area. Then I wept inside.

It's a good thing that Scott has made the wannabes so much fun to read. This is because the central character of the story, the Eversor Assassin, is such a consummate killing machine that its word count is more dedicated to its lethality than its hopes and dreams. Scott does a commendable job on that front as well; stringing together some bonecrushing action pieces throughout the story. The author can really construct solid fight scenes. Tertiary characters like the Guard Captain and a female prisoner inside the hive make the most of their brief time as well.

All in all, Death Mask is an altogether enjoyable quick read with great action. There are no real surprises in this "Day of Reckoning", although there is a nice little reveal at the end. And, seriously, who doesn't love Eversor Assassins?

Here's one dispatching one of the Sororitas that hijacked the Faith & Fire review....

Here's what it is:
A very efficient assassin is sent to clean house in a hive saturated with ork wannabes. Some laughs and lots of blood ensue. Recommended.

Final Score:


Cover Score:

One of my favorite Black Library cover artists, Alex Boyd, is handling these Sanctus Reach covers, and I love it. As mentioned in the note above, The Black Library changed the color scheme to this:

For me, the green gives it an odd "jungle" vibe. I really prefer the white/red/black scheme of the other Sanctus Reach titles. As for the pic of the Eversor, I love it. Spot-on, great pose, nice graphic novel feel to it. Great job by Boyd.

Cover Final Score:


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