SOVEREIGN #1/ Written by CHRIS ROBERSON/ Art by PAUL MAYBURY/ Published by IMAGE COMICS
“Sovereign is set in a world which once knew gods, demons, and magic, and to which all three are returning.”
This is all the synopsis given in the promotional blurbs regarding this book and it is also the only easy summation of the book’s content. Comprised of three separate short stories, there is no indication that these stories are set in the same world. Nor is there any clear link between the stories, save that two of them involve the dead rising from the grave and two of the stories mention a group called The Horselords.
The first story – “Leaving Silence” – centers upon three members of a religious order called The Luminari. On their way to meet with the Horselords, they encounter a large number of dead bodies – the victims of a bandit raid. The trio stop to administer last rites but trouble arises… along with the corpses of the fallen! Doubtlessly, this first story was responsible for the promotional blurb’s claims that Sovereign was “An epic fantasy in the tradition of Game of Thrones…” Comparisons between the undead here and the Wights as well as The Luminari and the Night Watch are inevitable. Thankfully, Robeson adds enough true mysticism to The Luminari to separate them from the more familiar, secular group.
The second chapter – “Blade And Bow” – allows us our first glimpse of the nomadic Horselords. The focus here is upon Janramir – son of the Horselord’s leader. Janramir is a born warrior and a true leader of men on the battlefield. Yet, he is reluctant to take on the responsibilities of a ruler and a diplomat, mocking those who favor “pretty words and praise” over “blade and bow.” Janramir is easily the most likeable protagonist in the book, reminiscent of Conan of Cimmeria and Kull of Atlantis. Surprisingly, despite the focus on weapons and combat, this chapter has the least amount of action!
If “Blade and Blow” could be said to be Roberson’s tribute to Robert E. Howard, than the final chapter – “From The Depths” – is clearly a nod to the fantastic legacy of H.P. Lovecraft. Our point-of-view character here is Pol Ravenstone – a member of the science-minded organization known as The Lorianists. Ravenstone is a poor sailor, who’s general sickliness is only aggravated by the ocean voyage his current mission requires. Yet, Goodman Ravenstone becomes sicker still when his ship is attacked by a leviathan his science says is doubly impossible – due to both its tremendous size AND its being dead!
Those who have enjoyed Roberson’s previous work will find much to enjoy in this book. Roberson explains very little of the world at large in this first issue, apparently content to let the details of the world come out slowly as the series continues. There’s very little exposition in this story and not a single “As you well know…” speech.
Alas, the artwork by Paul Maybury isn’t quite as well-structured as Roberson’s script. Maybury is a good artist, for the most part, and his designs for the characters are memorable and eye-catching. The uniforms of the Luminari are particularly noteworthy and distinct. Yet, the battle scenes seem muddled and confusing, with odd coloring choices making it difficult to distinguish fine details at times. This is doubly true of the scenes set at night.
Despite this, the basic story shines through the unclear artwork. Overall, this is a strong start to what promises to be an interesting series. Sovereign is a must-read for all fans of good fantasy.