- Story: Chris Roberson
- Art: Paul Maybury
- Colors: Paul Maybury and Jordan Gibson
- Letters: John J. Hill
- Cover: Paul Maybury
- Publisher: Image Comics
Epic fantasy is gaining ground in the mainstream thanks to shows like Game of Thrones and movies like The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies. People who don’t roll dice in front of a DM screen are doing raids in WoW and are voraciously reading through every book currently out by George R.R. Martin. I attribute this modern curiosity towards the fantastical to all the awesome fantasy comics out right now. Rat Queens, Skullkickers, Tooth and Claw, and Saga are just some of the amazing works that are currently on-going that show people you can have elves, dragons, and wizards in a medium other than a novel or big, budget film. Now we have Sovereign to add to the list, a series from Image by best-selling author Chris Roberson and artist Paul Maybury. Looks like my bookshelf is starting to sag.
Volume one of Sovereign collects issues one through five of the fantasy series and includes a ton of sketches, as well as in-depth background about the different groups within the world. As the story itself stands, a trio of Lumanari- masked undertakers who perform rituals to keep the dead from rising-travel to the realm of the Horse Lords to tell them of the coming Convergence, a time when domains outside their world converge and abilities known as Strengths grow more powerful. With an increase in ability, however, comes greater threats. Daemons from the Unreal hunger for light and life and the barrier between the worlds will be thinnest upon Convergence and the dead will rise more easily. Unfortunately, the dead have begun to rise in droves already. Perhaps the Luminari calendar is wrong and the Convergence has already begun.
This is a great fantasy series; hands down one of the best I’ve seen in comic book format. It is fantastically paced, well-written, and the world that’s been built is familiar, yet fresh. We have seen countless stories where demons and undead are the main villains. Look at the recent release of Dragon Age: Inquisition and demons piling in from the Fade through the Breach. For a story with such well-known tropes to succeed and grab an audience it needs to have key features that set it apart. Sovereign does this is multiple ways.
The Lumanari wear masks in order to hide their faces from the people to keep eyes from looking upon them for the unwholesome work that they do. Not only does this create an interesting piece of world building, it allows for unique character designs that draw the eye. The same can be said about the cities and people, who range in ethnicity and aesthetics, but are highly inspired by Middle-Eastern and Indian culture. The last half of the story takes place in the Horse Lord capital, a Babylonian paradise overflowing with personality that inspires further awe than the umpteenth castle. Add in magical abilities that meld science with Avatar: The Last Airbender–type bending and you have a setting that all but demands your attention. Chris Roberson has created a world I am dying to learn more about and I think any fantasy fan will feel the same way.
Luckily for us, Paul Maybury’s gorgeous art allows us to see the world in fine detail that reminds me of films like Wizards and Belgian comics like Tintin. The illustrations have an 80’s animation style vibe that I usually find too busy and overcrowded, but here it is given room to breathe and lets you soak it in at your own pace. The dual coloring work from Maybury and Paul Gibson further draw your eye by painting scenes of lush jungles, bare roadways, and visceral action scenes with brush strokes that call to mind sand, heat, and warmth no matter what the hue. This is a harsh, stifling world, and it is utterly beautiful to behold.
My only gripe with the art is Maybury’s consistency. It has a sketch feel too it that I like, but in one panel you have a minutely rendered face, then in the next it looks like squished play-doh. This all depends on how close to the character’s face we are, but it is jarring to go from an exquisite close-up to a medium shot and lose all the personality of the individual. It should not be a deal breaker by a long shot for anyone looking to pick up this volume, just something to be aware of.
Zombies are popular right now and so is fantasy. It could be easy to read the synopsis of Sovereign and ignore it because of the familiar ground it is treading. Don’t! Chris and Paul have created an amazing piece of epic fantasy that stands on its own and it deserves a place on your shelf. If you love intriguing settings and magic-systems, enjoy zombies and the people who kill them, or want to check out a fantasy world that pulls its inspiration from something other than generic medieval, pick up Sovereign Volume 1.
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