One question that pops up fairly often in all the various Alpha Legion or Chaos Marine groups/fora that I attend is whether or not the Alpha Legion is really Chaotic in the same vein that the Black Legion or Word Bearers. This usually involves a rousing back-and-forth that leaves no one satisfied, so instead of making that same argument over and over again I'm writing it all out here complete with citations so that I -- and any of like mind -- have an easy reference when the time comes that this particular sticky wicket rears its head again.
So with that said, on with the show. My first army in this game was Alpha Legion, and my first codex was the infamous "3.5" Codex: Chaos Space Marines written by Pete Haines. At this point, there was no question that the Alpha Legion were true-blue Chaos Marines. No one ever painted loyalist Space Marines in Alpha Legion colors. It wasn't until Horus Heresy: Legion arrived that the concept of "secretly loyal" Alpha Legionnaires entered the 40K zeitgeist and it's been a trope that has bled over from 30K to 40K despite having little basis in published canon. And while GW doesn't strictly maintain a rigid canon like other IP's do, every reference I am going to use is an officially published Games Workshop product: straight from the horse's mouth so to speak, because Do-It-Yourself, "head-canon," and fan fiction sources bear no weight in an argument. So let's take a look at some of these sources.
1. Codex: Chaos Space Marines (Chambers, Andy et al, 2002).
The older codices were generally light on lore, lacking the multi-page spreads on each subfaction and each unit entry received a short paragraph at most. The Alpha Legion is dealt with specifically with a single page of lore and rules, and one small color section displaying a single squad in Legion colors. Notable in these admittedly limited layout are the following points:
- Most obviously, the Alpha Legion has lore & rules in this codex, and the only restrictions on unit selection was that "Alpha Legionaries can only bear the Mark of Chaos Undivided..." (pg 40) so no other Marks and none of the four Cult Squad types (Berzerkers, etc).
- There was an entire section of rules on the use of daemons. This reads in whole: "Daemons: The Alpha Legion cannot normally rely on Daemons remaining stable for long enough for them to be useful because they are so far from the Eye of Terror. When operating on a world where they have secured the belief of Chaos cults they will gladly add Daemons to the diversity of their attacks. Because of this the Alpha Legion may include Daemon Packs but only Cultist units may carry Icons to summon them. They may use Daemon Princes and Possessed Chaos Space Marines." (pg 40). This section explicitly tells us that they have Daemon Princes, Possessed, and Daemons.
- The color section on page 75 shows a single squad of eight Alpha Legionnaires. They are wearing corrupted armor that features all the same skulls, spikes, horns, and Chaos stars that every other Chaos Space Marine in the book is wearing.
2. Index Astartes IV (Arp, Jeffrey et al, 2005).
- This tome contains the article "The Enemy Within: The Alpha Legion Space Marines Legion" by Graham Davey. Now this article is written from an in-universe perspective and is hinted at potentially being a complete fabrication. Regardless, I'm going to include it because although the information may be a fabrication. . . it may also be entirely true.
- The color plate on page 31 displays artwork of Alpha Legionnaires whose armor is decorated with the usual assortment of spikes, horns, skulls, and Chaos stars.
- On page 34 is a piece of artwork showing an Alpha Legionnaire killing a Dark Angel. This Legionnaire's armor is once again decorated with Chaos stars, spikes, and some severed heads.
- Under the "Combat Doctrine" heading, there's a fairly exhaustive list of the various tactics that the Legion employs on a regular basis, including "...sponsorship and supply of heretical cultist groups, alliance with anti-Imperial military forces including other Traitor Legions and aliens." (pg 36) A few paragraphs later it goes on to state that "It is known that the legion recruits, supplies, and organises hundreds of cultist cells on Imperial worlds. These groups are not all crazed devotees of the Chaos gods and insane daemon-worshippers [sic] (although there are plenty of those)." It's hard to indoctrinate and supply daemon-worshiping cultists if you don't have a doctrinal basis to do so; ergo, those who build the cults must be worshipers themselves.
3. Space Marine Battles: The Hunt for Voldorius (Hoare, Andy, 2010).
- I won't quote chapter & verse from this novel, but suffice to say the following: The primary antagonist is a Daemon Prince of the Alpha Legion named Kernax Voldorius. An Alpha Legion Daemon Prince. This novel also includes the use of a Chaos Spawn, Chaos cultists, and a sub-officer named Nullus whose scarred face was "the result of countless years of exposure to the warping, unclean energies of Chaos" (pg 59). Now I completely understand you, dear reader, having a dislike of this novel. Black Library novels are rarely pieces of sublime prose but Andy Hoare did a job on this one. It's also true that the Alpha Legion antagonists do very little of the tricksy stuff that we all know and love...but that doesn't mean they're not Alpha Legionnaires.
4. Codex: Chaos Space Marines (Kelly, Phil, 2012).
- Color plates on pages 76, 77, and 88 feature more pictures of models in Alpha Legionnaire colors that include all the usual skulls and stars, but with a kicker: now there are daemon engines included! That's right, a Forgefiend and a Heldrake in Legion colors! Not to mention the Dark Apostle on page 77 tucked next to a Dark Vengeance Chaos Lord. Not to mention that Helbrute that's all mutated and warp-ish.
- Going into the lore, there's this line in the Legion's call-out box on page 12: "The Inquisition holds a special loathing for the Alpha Legion for their favoured tactics of subverting Inquisitorial operations, spreading Daemon cults and cultivating the seeds of heresy." So there's even more references to the Legion being heretics and be able to summon and utilize daemons.
5. Codex: Chaos Space Marines (Unattributed, 2017).
- On page 27, there's this paragraph: "The Alpha Legion coordinates and directs the activities of Chaos cultists across entire sectors and instigate massive insurrections against Imperial rule. These revolts are often used as a cover for a series of shattering Heretic Astartes raidsor as a precursor to a full-scale invasion from the Eye of Terror." Notably, this is direct evidence that some Alpha Legion elements spend time in the Eye of Terror, a fact that both Index Astartes and the 2002 codex specifically said did not happen. There's also a plate with a Legion Terminator on it adorned with all the usual accoutrements of being a Chaos Space Marine, and more on page 29.
- Page 106 is the model gallery, and our friends the Helbrutes, Forgefiend, and Dark Apostle all appear alongside cultists and Space Marines bearing the hallmarks of Chaos worship.
6. Codex: Chaos Space Marines (Unattributed, 2019).
- The Legion's lore and color plates are essentially the same as the previous entry, but I would direct your attention to page 101 where a full squad of new-style Chaos Space Marines are depicted, yet again, with all of the marks of corruption and mutation you'd expect to see. Additionally, one of these Chaos Marines has a single horn emerging from his bare skull -- not helmet-mounted, but from his head - which is a key distinction if a naysayer wants to claim that all those Chaos stars and severed heads are just there "for appearances."
7. The Talon of Horus (Dembski-Bowden, Aaron, 2014).
- I touched on the fact that previous sources mentioned that the Alpha Legion did not enter the Eye with the rest of the Traitor Legions; I've already cited one source that contradicts that, but here's another. Iskander Khayon and Ezekyle Abaddon are having a conversation about the Legion Wars that erupted in the Eye after the Traitors had been harried from real-space. Khayon remarks that so many of the Legions have suffered grevious casualties, but: "Of the Twentieth, no one can say with any surety, but -"
"They're here," Abaddon interrupted with a smile. "Take my word on that."
So there it is. Evidence of life in the Eye of Terror, of warp corruption and mutation, of the employment of daemons in multiple forms, of the raising of Chaos cults, and of direct worship of the gods via the canonical appearance of a Dark Apostle. Any questions?