Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Paul Maybury
Review by Joey Braccino
An epic fantasy in the tradition of Game of Thrones, SOVEREIGN is set in a world which once knew gods, demons, and magic, and to which all three are returning. New York Times bestselling author CHRIS ROBERSON (Edison Rex, iZombie) joins artist PAUL MAYBURY (POPGUN, Catalyst Comix) to tell the story of masked undertakers facing the undead with swords, of civil wars and cultures in collision, of ancient threats emerging from the ashes of history to menace the future… – From Image
Sovereign #1 is a new creator-owned series from Image Comics that attempts to capitalize on both the trend of epic sword-and-shield high fantasy permeating the current pop cultural landscape (Game of Thrones, NOAH, Vikings, etc.) as well as the world-building potential of the comics medium. After reading the first issue, I can’t necessarily say I have a clear idea of what exactly that world is supposed to be, but I can say that creators Chris Roberson and Paul Maybury are having a lot of fun building.
Similar to my initial reaction to Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios’ Pretty Deadly, I can’t necessarily tell you exactly what’s going on in the plot of Sovereign #1. I know that there are three separate stories going on, each dealing with one corner of this world. One story seems almost mystical, with a traveling group of Luminari stumbling upon a recent massacre in the Lowlands. Another features a prince of sorts, hunting and cavorting, only to return home to somber news. And the third takes us out to sea with a band of seafarers battling a strange monster. The names and countries and beasts, I could not name, but the feeling of adventure and the weight of the narrative is palpable on each and every page. Roberson is just starting to unravel the threads of Sovereign with this first issue, and, if anything, I’m interested to see where they go.
Maybury’s artwork reminds me of Gene Luen Yang’s work on his historical war epic, Boxers & Saints (a fantastic graphic novel set that everyone should read). It blends realism and cartooning together into a simple, engaging aesthetic that allows for moments of both intense naturalism, like three characters lying by a fire, as well as surreal fantasy, like a phosphorescent spirit orbs rising out of the dead. Epic fantasy like Sovereign is a tricky bird to illustrate because of the necessary dichotomy of gritty realism/high surrealism, but Maybury appears more than up to the task, and his designs are at once familiarly ancient and eerily phantasmic.
Worth a look. Epic fantasy in the vein of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings is super hot right now, so Chris Roberson and Paul Maybury are getting into the game at the right time. For those looking for a quick and easy story, though, this might not be the comic for you. This type of narrative—world-building, tiered, complex storytelling—requires a certain level of patience and trust, and I trust that Roberson and Maybury have one heck of a story to tell in Sovereign.