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Defenders of Ultramar (Graphic Novel)

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Defenders of Ultramar
Defendersultramar.jpg
Cover Illustration
Author Graham McNeill
Illustrator Eric Jimenez, Jordan Gunderson, Tony Parker, Kevin Hopgood, Leonardo Freites, David Esbri
Publisher Boom! Studios
Series Ultramarines (Novel Series)
Released 2009
Editions 2009 Graphic Novel
9781934506691

Defenders of Ultramar is a graphic novel by Graham McNeill, chronicling the exploits of the Ultramarines 4th Company sometime after Uriel Ventris's exile (i.e., taking place between the events of Warriors of Ultramar and Courage and Honour, and roughly simultaneously with the events of Dead Sky, Black Sun and The Killing Ground).

Plot

Chapter One

On Macragge, hopeful Ultramarines Aspirants reach the end of a barefoot race through the Crown Mountains, ending at the Fortress of Hera. When one cadet, Janek Lycean, drops out, his companion, Uriel Dios, drops out with him and urges Janek to get up and finish. Finishing together, they are triumphant at first, only to be confronted by Sergeant Learchus Abantes, Acting-Captain of the 4th Company, who tells them their true training has not yet begun.

Learchus reviews the new crop of recruits with Chaplain Judd Clausel and Apothecary Selenus. Selenus reminds them that the 4th Company desperately needs to rebuild its strength, after its decimation defending Tarsis Ultra from the Tyranids. Clausel, however, insists on maintaining the Company's standards and accepting only the best recruits.

Learchus takes a moment to question Uriel and Janek. He notes that Uriel could have won the race, if he had left Janek behind, but Uriel replies that he and Janek swore an oath to finish together. Clausel notes disapprovingly that they should have completed their objective, but Learchus says that the Company's greatness comes from battle-brothers who will stand with each other through thick and thin. He then receives a message, summoning him to the Chapter Master's quarters.

Learchus reports to Lord Calgar that the 4th's numbers should be replaced by the end of the day. Calgar commends him for his excellent leadership, restoring the 4th Company's morale as well as its strength, after Tarsis Ultra and the painful exile of their Captain, Uriel Ventris. Learchus admits to some misgivings about taking command of the company, since he was the one who reported Uriel and Pasanius' dereliction of duty that resulted in their exile. Learchus wants his Captaincy, but is loath to advance at Uriel's expense. Calgar reassures him that he has only done his duty, and then gives the 4th a mission.

Contact with the Gladius Frigate Guilliman's Honour has been lost while it was on patrol in the Northern Marches of Ultramar. The 4th is to take the Vae Victus to this region and investigate.

First, however, Learchus is ordered to the Temple of Correction to make obeisance to the Primarch and ask for guidance in the coming mission. Kneeling before the Shrine of Guilliman, Learchus prays for the Primarch to look favorably on his company, even if he himself is unworthy to lead it. One of the mortal pilgrims to the Shrine overhears and interrupts Learchus' prayers; he introduces himself as Markus Cornelian, an ex-Calthian Auxilia trooper. Cornelian shows Learchus the stump of his missing arm, lost during a Dark Eldar pirate raid at the Persephone Gate on Calth, forty years earlier. The pirate lord would have taken his head as well, had not Learchus saved his life. Cornelian thanks Learchus for the favor, and reminds him that they all have duties to perform; Cornelian's to come to the Shrine and pay tribute to the Primarch, and Learchus' to lead his company like the worthy warrior he is. Encouraged, Learchus thanks Cornelian and takes his leave.

On the bridge of the Vae Victus, Learchus and Lord Admiral Lazlo Tiberius, Master of the Fleet, are discussing the mission. Tiberius is looking forward to a good fight, as his beloved Strike Cruiser has been in space dock for too long after being mauled by the Tyranids.

Nine days later, the Victus is approaching Espandor, when Philotas, one of the deck officers, alerts the Ultramarines that he has found the missing frigate upon the surface of the planet: they are revolted to see Orks salvaging and scrapping her for their own use. Learchus then proceeds to rally the 4th and launches a drop pod assault.

Chapter Two

The Ultramarines charge into battle from their drop pods, slaughtering the Orks and taking minimal casualties. They make their way to the downed frigate where Selenus can retrieve the geneseed of their fallen brothers. Clausel then advises Learchus that they should retreat from battle, as per the Codex, allowing Orbital Bombardment to finish off the Orks.

In space, Philotas warns Admiral Tiberius that three Ork Kill Kroozers are on an intercept course. Tiberius quickly launches the Orbital Torpedoes and retrieval Thunderhawks, before turning the Victus to combat the Ork ships.

Before the torpedoes make impact, the Ultramarines retreat into a cave, taking cover. Probing deeper inside, they are surprised to find a horde of Orks large enough to constitute an invading army, not just a raiding force, and a Gargant being constructed. The Orks attack, and the Ultramarines, massively outnumbered, retreat out of the cave to the Thunderhawks which have now arrived in the wake of the Orbital Bombardment.

The 4th Company then proceeds to the Planetary Capital, as the Vae Victus is still engaged in space combat. Arriving at the capital, Herapolis, Learchus promptly informs Saul Gallow, Governor of Espandor, that his world is under threat and that they need to mobilise the PDF reserves. Gallow asks how his forces will be deployed, and Learchus says they will not be; the Codex dictates that, when faced with an overwhelming Ork force, the only sound strategy is to lure their entire strength to a single place where they can be defeated: on the walls of Herapolis.

Chapter Three

With a set of carefully placed ambushes, the Ultramarines succeed in drawing the Orks toward Herapolis. However, one of the newly appointed Scout squads expresses some misgivings about leaving the settlements in the Orks' path undefended; their populations will be slaughtered unless the Ultramarines buy them enough time to evacuate. Chaplain Clausel reminds Learchus that one must make hard choices in war, but Learchus counters that, as Ultramarines, they are sworn to the defense of Espandor's people.

The Ultramarines deploy to the city of Corinth, sending the local PDF to protect the refugee column, while the Ultramarines demolish the bridges leading into the city, to block the Orks' advance. Two bridges are successfully destroyed before the Orks arrive, but the Ultramarines must put up a hard fight to hold back the Orks while the last two are destroyed. The third is defended heroically by Dreadnought Brother Barkus, who kills a Killa Kan and tells Learchus to detonate the charges while Barkus holds the line, sacrificing himself.

The 4th Company then retreats from the last bridge, blowing it up and buying themselves and the city's people enough time to make their way to Herapolis, to await the final assault. The Ultramarines man the walls, together with the PDF troopers, only to see the true size of the Ork horde coming over the mountains, led by their finally mobile Gargant.

Chapter Four

As the Orks approach, Chaplain Clausel gives a final sermon to rally the PDF's spirits and morale. Governor Gallow, taking up a weapon beside his troopers, tells Learchus that the Chaplain made a fine speech, but frankly Gallow is not ready to embrace an honourable death in battle. Learchus reassures him that they will not fail; they are Ultramarines.

The Orks then commence their assault; some escalade the walls with ladders, while the Gargant destroys the main gate of the city walls, creating a breach. The Gargant draws close to the tops of the battlements, spraying machine gun fire onto the defenders. To create additional havoc, an Ork Mekboy fires a Shokk Attack Gun that discharges a swarm of maddened Snotlings onto the battlements to harass the PDF.

Learchus and Clausel lead an Assault Squad onto the Gargant, infiltrating the machine and planting explosives. That job done, the squad leaps to the roof of a nearby building, but before Learchus can leap, the Ork Warboss appears and challenges Learchus to a duel. The Warboss is almost too strong and too fast for Learchus, who is about to be crushed under the Warboss' hammer, before Clausel intervenes, blocking the death blow with his Crozius. Together they defeat the Warboss and throw his body off the Gargant into the teeming Ork hordes below. They then jump to safety just as the explosives detonate, destroying the Gargant. With the Gargant's anti-aircraft weapons gone, the Ultramarines' Thunderhawks fly in and strafe the horde. The Ultramarines and PDF rally in a final push, and the Orks are routed.

Learchus informs Gallow that the PDF can hunt the survivors, whereupon the 4th takes their leave of Espandor. Clausel congratulates Learchus, saying he has earned his captaincy beyond all doubt.

On returning to Macragge, however, Lord Calgar greets them in person, informing them that Uriel Ventris has returned from his Death Oath.

Characters

Personnel

Written: Graham McNeill

Illustration:

Coloured: Veronica Gandini

Lettered: Johnny Lowe

Edited: Ian Brill

Sources

Defenders of Ultramar ISBN-13: 978-1-934-506-91