Slaanesh has returned. Since Age of Sigmar launched fans have been asking where to find the Prince of Pleasure and her followers. Rumours spread that he had been erased from the setting and replaced in the Chaos pantheon with that horned prat.
Fast forward to the Daughters of Khaine army book and she once again featured in the narrative. The General's Handbook also introduced three distinct types of follower (Invader, Seeker, Pretender) with their own rules. The stage had been set.
The First Glimpse
I could leave it there but I guess I need to write something about journalism and analysis.
There stands the new Keeper of Secrets. Take that in. Now step back and do it again. This is a bold direction for Games Workshop and one I dearly hope the narrative supports. GW has had a rather iffy track record when dealing with gender and sexuality; a record that could be redeemed or cemented when the Army book lands. Until we know more I'm commenting from a purely visual perspective.
The Keeper of Secrets above is an utterly beautiful exploration of queer sexuality as power. Sexual power and agency is usually reserved for cis-gendered bodies (and even then with several caveats and such) so this is a welcome statement. We see a powerful and confident stance, feminine gait, masculine shoulders, that amazing chest. A character expressing malice and allure in equal measure. As one person put it 'You would fine them sexy if your genitals weren't terrified of them.'
It's nice to entertain the idea of queer bodies being recognised as beautiful. However Slaanesh does represent an evil and corrupting influence, not the best start for representation. When the Army Book arrives we get to examine the context of this release more closely; that will be a big factor in determining if this is a positive step.
I'm not qualified to make any comment from an intersex perspective on a model range displaying male and female coded physical traits. If I find commentary by someone more appropriate I'll link it from the blog as it deserves exploration.
A result of the queer essence of Slaanesh is a delightful amount of femme coding in the range. We saw some in the Daughters of Khaine release and a little in the Idoneth but even the new Stormcast ladies were beautifully butch.
The amazing model above shows demons with flowing robes, long hair and jewelry. Whilst also retaining the sharp edges and metallic elements that makes the Slaanesh aesthetic menacing. Not an easy design feat. Not content with leaving it there, Games Workshop elected to position them beckoning unwary opponents toward a massive, magical, metallic vagina.
This kind of Yonic symbology is usually the purview of Blood Angels and Tyranids. I wonder if this will make certain gamers uncomfortable?
Hedonites of Slaanesh. Devotees of self-indulgence and sensual pleasure. There are so many ways such a complex subject can be handled really, really badly. Especially in a game which is ultimately about warfare. The Daughters of Khaine Army Book had an extremely uncomfortable narrative around Morathi. Often mirroring the experience of trauma survivors finding a lack of support and understanding. Not to mention an unhealthy dose of victim blaming when removed from the context of her previous incarnation.
We have an image of the book with a dangerous and powerful daemon front and centre. Meanwhile the current Warscroll highlights their desire to inflict pain upon others. Together with the implications of sensual pleasure and allure there are some red lines around consent that could easily be crossed. I hope the writing team are on form.
That is some Hellraiser style right there. Clouds of swirling blades, hooks designed to entangle flesh, another huge magical vagina. I had been looking at the new Necromunda Delaque models; wondering about modelling them as Cenobite style cultists to follow the Keeper of Secrets. That kind of over-blown and ridiculous horror I can really get behind. Puzzle box artefacts corrupting greedy mortals; condemning entire towns to B-movie storylines. Although that's hardly doing the only overtly queer coded faction a favour. It would be nice if deviation from patriarchal cis-het norms was an heroic rather than horrific venture.
If we're going down the hedonistic route then sex positivity is a must. A Goddess of Pleasure like Slaanesh could make safe sex and mutual consent his guiding principle. Sensuality as an exploration of the self rather than temptation toward damnation. That probably isn't going to happen in the context of chaos and the mortal realms. Nice to think it could though.
Great models, Queer as all heck, it will all come down to the narrative in the army book as to whether I'll celebrate or head desk. Slaanesh isn't and will likely never be without problematic aspects. Some parts of the fanbase introduce their own aspects that aren't actually there or overly highlight more subtle parts could also undo any positive steps. I'll wait and see.