Story and Script from Sarah Vaughn
Story and Art from Jonathan Luna
Review by Jason Kahler
The first issue of Eternal Empire begins the way all great epic fantasies should begin: with a disrobed lady imploring some kind of assistance from a dragon.
Before we can learn the results of that encounter, we skip ahead 141 years to find the heroine, nameless except for the insulting epithet “Snow Hair,” picking turnips in the cold.
The fair-skinned woman toils under the yoke of dark-skinned overseers within the territory ruled by the Empress of the Suns. It’s a system sick with the abuses of slavery and injustice. In one panel, a shirtless worker is beaten in the cold for taking food.
When the rulers stage a celebration to honor a recent military victory, Snow Hair refuses to participate, and instead lights out for what she hopes are better chances. She loses her overseer pursuers in a storm, all the while haunted by visions of warmth and the convergence of her world’s three suns.
In the end, Snow Hair is confronted by a silent ranger-looking fellow with burning hands, and we’re left to wonder about what’s going on here.
Vaughn and Luna are setting up the pieces for a larger story: Snow Hair will fight against the Empire, we’ll find out what happened with the naked lady and the dragon, the suns will align. But right now, I feel pretty ambivalent to Eternal Empire.
First issues of an on-going series have a lot to do. Set-up action. Introduce characters. Make something happen, but not too much, because there’s a lot of space left in the story. First issues also need to build their world. I have a feeling that Snow Hair knows a lot about her world, and I think Vaughn and Luna do, too, but I don’t.
Cards on the table, I dislike stories that spool out over long periods of time basic information that characters know. Keeping readers in the dark is unfair, in my opinion. If a character knows something, somehow, I want to know it, too. The story shouldn’t be about me reading the encyclopedia of the world as we go along. Give me the facts straight away, and let’s move onto the narrative that lives in that world.
So, Eternal Empire #1 leaves me cold. We have a flashback, some visions, and an unnamed worker runs from her oppressors. It’s just not enough for me to hold onto.
Luna’s art doesn’t help. It’s flat. The characters don’t emote. An entire page is a grid of panels showing snow blowing in a blizzard.
When Snow Hair makes it to a lush forest, the forest just doesn’t look very lush.
Maybe this story will really get cooking now that the creators think they’ve set the table, but as it is, I can’t recommend Eternal Empire. I hope it improves.
Verdict: Pass on Eternal Empire, but if you’re intrigued enough to see if the story gets going and the creators are a little more forthcoming with the information, I wouldn’t pass up a look-through of issue two.
Eternal Empire #1 is available May 3rd from Image Comics.
(And please: I want to know the main character’s name. Figure out a way to work it in.)