So this comic got good all of a sudden, didn’t it?
Sovereign, written by Chris Roberson and drawn by Paul Maybury, is Image Comics trying its hand at an epic fantasy series. And for the first two issues, while it certainly had the “epic” and “fantasy” parts down pat, it suffered from poor characterization, a meandering story, and art that was sometimes good and other times muddled. But then this issue happened. And all was righted.
This installment picks up in the city of Khend, the home to a civilization of horselords (people who ride horses, not people who are horses, if there was any confusion) called the Tamurid. One of our lead characters, the Tamurid prince Janramir, mourns the loss of his father. Khend is also the destination of several others, including a party of emissaries from the land of Ablelund (what seems to be a stand-in for Great Britain) and a trio of monks called Luminari on a holy mission. What kind of mission, you may ask? You see, in the Sovereign universe, when a person dies, their corpse needs to be properly prepared and disposed of or they risk possession by daemons, which transform their bodies into the shambling undead. As an unholy event called the Convergence comes nearer, this occurrence will only become more common, and so the Luminari must warn the Tamurid people before it’s too late.
Now already that seems like a lot to follow, but this issue actually does a great job of clarifying all of the character’s motivations and personalities. In fact, it does a much better job than the previous two issues have of telling us what the heck is going on. Important details like the overall goals of the Luminari and the Ablelunders were murky and hard to comprehend before, but are now crystal clear. Character relationships seem simplified, more easily followed, and more interesting because of that. With a few minor tweaks, I firmly believe this could have been the opening issue of the series and Sovereign would have been much better for it. It’s exciting and gripping in a way that the other issues weren’t and there’s some honest-to-god direction for the plot to follow, another thing missing from earlier issues.
Even the art seems to have improved. Maybury impressed before with his sweeping cityscapes and crowds, but there is a striking quality to some of these images that were lacking before. A visual representation of a daemon possession is described by one of the characters as “horrible, but almost beautiful”, and I think that’s a fair description. Only the Luminari can see a daemon’s true form, and it’s a nightmare, a twisted amalgamation of human, animal and otherworldly features. Faces still seem to be a bit of an issue, particularly noses which always tend to be more on the large side, but that’s more of a personal complaint.
It’s always nice when a comic can surprise you in a positive way and Sovereign has done just that. So congrats to Roberson, Maybury, and the whole creative team! Now just please keep this momentum going, guys. I really want to keep liking this comic.