Written by Chris Roberson
Art by Paul Maybury
Colors by Paul Maybury, Jordan Gibson, and Brad Simpson
Letters by John J. Hill
Sovereign is a frustrating title. Not because it’s bad; it’s fine comic. The art is mostly good, sometimes very impressive, but other times muddled. The story is epic in both the scope of its setting and its characters, following a total of five characters in three different locations, but character’s themselves don’t have too much depth yet. There’s potential. But therein lies the frustration; this is a comic that is clearly and unapologetically taking it’s time. And sure, I’m along for the ride - I can appreciate an intricate, thought-out story - but reading Sovereign is like saddling up on an slow and sturdy mule after being spoiled by Image Comics’ more exciting breeds: Lazarus, the dependable Thoroughbred. Saga, the gorgeous Arabian. Even Sex Criminals, the Shetland Pony with a few quirks. All are immediately appealing. Sovereign is talking us on a journey, but it’s doing it at a deliberate, sluggish trot compared to its quicker paced brethren.
We start off following the three monks (or something) called Luminari, continuing on their journey to meet with the Tamur, a group of horse-lords not unlike the Dothraki from Game of Thrones (but with nicer clothes and less rape). What they want with the Tamur is unclear, and they don’t get much farther in this issue than they did in the last as their story ends on a cliffhanger, preparing to fight some zombies (or ghosts or something). We also check in with the Tamurian prince Janramir, fighting with his brother over inheritance and succession following the death of their father, and with Goodman Ravenstone, a traveler from a foreign land also making his way toward the Tamur, but while there’s a lot happening around these characters there’s surprisingly little in the way of recognizable plot progression.
Most of this issue alone is spent on world building, explaining that this horselord is that horselord’s son, that this woman has the power to project thoughts into the minds of others, that these monk people freak regular people the hell out. And for the most part, it’s actually interesting, well-crafted stuff. You can tell Chris Roberson puts a lot of thought into the history of every character and culture, no matter how minute and it can be fun to get lost in world this big. But only for so long. Unfortunately, the characters suffer because of these diversions. Three pages of text-exposition in the back of this issue elaborate on information we already learned in the main story. Little details are learned about long-dead rulers, but it felt tedious because 1) we know most of this information already and 2) those three pages could’ve been used to flesh out some of our main characters. Why specifically are both the Luminar and the Goodman Ravenstone traveling to visit the Tumar? What was with that crazy flying spirit animal on the final page? That seems interesting.
The art, as said before, can be hit or miss. Paul Maybury certainly has a talent for drawing expansive cityscapes and large throngs of people, but occasionally the people themselves get a little…fuzzy. The three Luminar specifically are affected the most. All the characters wear masks, but sometimes it’s difficult to tell where the mask ends and the face begins, especially for the oldest member Father Griffon. However, I was very impressed by the use of shadows and coloring in the bonfire scene.
Now I’m sure all of my problems will be addressed in subsequent issues (I’m definitely sticking around until at least the end of the arc…if this book even has those) and it’s far too early to judge the worth of a comic like this based on its first two chapters, but I really hope that Roberson starts picking up stride on this epic journey. Otherwise, if he keeps expanding on every insignificant bloodline and quirk of this admittedly deep universe he and Maybury have created, he’s going to lose a lot of readers before he even gets to the horsemeat and potatoes.