Sovereign #1

Sovereign #1
Written by Chris Roberson
Illustrated by Paul Maybury
Image Comics

Sovereign is an ambitious new fantasy series from Chris Roberson, with art by Paul Maybury. As an introduction to a broad new world of magic and mystery, this story works well by giving some clues, but creating enough questions and hints to hook in a new reader. This comic has a more "formal" feel that also helps to set the "high fantasy" tone; it follows the tales of 3 different groups of people and each tale is preceded with an introductory page and relevant quote.

The first story concerns the Luminari, a religious/spiritual order known for its silence. We meet an older male priest, a younger male warrior and a female "sister" of their order, as they are just underway on a journey to present themselves to the Horse-Lords, but find dead bodies in their path. As they attempt to properly attend to the dead, demons appear to possess the bodies of the dead, and the Luminari must do battle with this supernatural threat.

The second tale introduces us to the Horse-Lords, a ruling class of people (like the Mongols or Arabians, perhaps) who travel by (you guessed it) horse. The story centers around the young crown prince who rejects the decadent, corrupt ways of Court and lives for the hunt, and for riding free across the open lands. As his tale ends, his life is about to change dramatically.

Lastly, there is a tale at sea, of a ship traveling to Khend (the land of the Horse-Lords). Pol Ravenstone  is a man of research and science traveling to Khend, with Lady Joslyn Evrendon (perhaps part of a religious order, but a diplomat in the service of their Queen), on a ship captained by Argus mag Donnac (loyal to Lady Joslyn). This last group has the clear appearance of being English and Scottish (or the equivalent in this world). The ship is attacked by a giant shark/sea-creature, that happens to have been dead (or undead) for some time already.

There's a lot to appreciate in this first issue. You'll want to linger on the art, which is detailed and dynamic. There's a few panels where the action is slightly confusing, but otherwise the sequential storytelling is very effective. There are a variety of panel layout choices here (which makes each page interesting and distinct), and Maybury's style is reminiscent of Paul Pope. Additionally, the color choices really work to differentiate the feel of each story. As for the over world itself, this seems to be a place where magic has existed, but is less prominent than it once was. Society appears to be moving in a direction of reason and logic, but with the demons and the undead shark, there's signs of a return of dark magic to the world. The story also hints at a world full of politics, alliances and intrigue. It presents a land full of racial and societal diversity. The Horse-Lords are clearly very important, as the Luminari travel to pay tribute to them, and the ship passengers travel to do research in the Horse-Lords' land; hopefully the different narratives will come together in an interesting way.

It's not easy to say too much about a series after one issue, but for fans of the fantasy genre generally or big tales of war, magic and intrigue such as the Game of Thrones series, this is a promising start.