This first cousin of the Warhammer game/comics conglomerate transfers the desperate grimness of that sf universe to a secondary-world fantasy saga in this collection from Warhammer Monthly magazine. Darkblade deals with the wars between tribes of dark elves, outcasts driven into the frozen wastes of Naggaroth. Malus Darkblade is shrewd and unscrupulous enough to dabble in magic that's forbidden even to the dark elves. In this story, Malus returns to his native Hag Graef with family blood on his hands and a demon sharing his body. The rest of the episodes show Malus hacking and charming his way up through the royal court all the way to the top. As in most Warhammer books, there are no characters to root for, just more or less brave and clever representatives of evil. Within those rather severe limits, however, Abnett and Hopgood do interesting work. Hopgood's art has less obsessive detail and more dramatic flair than is usual in such stories, and he's especially good at swirling battle scenes. He's less proficient at differentiating characters, but since all dark elves do around each other is scowl, sneer or stare menacingly, that weakness isn't as serious as it could be. Abnett's script is intelligent, based on the premise that most of the characters are itching to betray each other so that readers will identify with someone like Malus, who at least shows some panache in his treachery. This isn't a landmark comic by any means, but it's not a bust either. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.