From the creators of Image’s hit series ALEX + ADA — Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn — comes a story in a land we’ve never seen before. This is a place full of corruption and strife with three distant suns that brighten the sky. Slaves toil for no compensation as the threat of imperialism looms over the last free region on the continent. Here is where the story of ETERNAL EMPIRE begins.

eternal empire image jonathan luna sarah vaughn

This comic comes with a map to guide you around the continent of Saia, where ETERNAL EMPIRE takes place. Most of the first issue occurs in Essla: a barren, freezing land where workers endure terrible conditions in order to gather food. The main character is an unnamed, mysterious worker who struggles to accept the conditions of where she lives. She, unlike others, doesn’t give into the cult-like appreciation of the Imperial Palace, a force that conquers and enslaves every land it touches. All the while, she’s plagued by visions with no discernible meaning or sender. Does she resign to her fate or attempt to discover what these visions mean? In order to avoid spoilers, this review won’t tell you. You’ll have to read the first issue on May 3rd to find out!

One of the best aspects of ETERNAL EMPIRE is that the world of Saia feels very real. Already the world-building is thorough,  and hopefully, it will reveal more in later issues. In just the first issue, you can grasp the elements of a culture hidden behind the surface of Essla’s people: when they pray to the three suns for comfort, or when they dance around the fire during their rare moment off from work. Unfortunately, the more nuanced facets of their culture are suppressed by the imperialist regime, but I hope to see more of them as the comic progresses. I can’t wait to see an exploration of the several other regions of this land. I’m especially curious as to how the other areas are doing under the Empire’s control. Surely not all submit so easily as Essla seems to.

eternal empire image jonathan luna sarah vaughn

Most of all, I appreciate the anti-imperialism message already brewing in the first issue. Politics through storytelling is crucial to a realistic and effective story, especially nowadays. Putting important current-day issues in a fantasy setting helps readers relate to and understand nuanced politics in the real world. Science fiction and fantasy genres have always been warning readers about political homogeneity (1984 by George Orwell), patriarchy (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood), and capitalism (The Time Machine by H.G. Wells) since their inception. By now, it’s a staple of the genre. By putting real-world issues in the context of something unreal, readers can analyze and critique a system from outside of itself. When a reader enters a fantasy world, they are less prone to real-world biases and develop a more objective viewpoint without any preconceived notions.

READ: Wondering if politics should be in comics at all? Here’s what we think!

In addition, Luna’s art is always distinctive and expresses action and emotion with ease. He opts for minimalism over detail, which might fit your tastes and it might not. As you can see in the pictures in this article, there are less detailed faces, less focus on nuanced features, and so on. Regardless, his use of minimalist facial details allows for a lot of distinctive emotion in the characters. In addition, I often feel his colors fall a little flat compared to other comic artists’. Because of his use of certain artistic styles, it feels especially two-dimensional and less dynamic. But this is all my personal stylistic opinion. However, Luna makes up for it through showing (not telling) a good first leg of a new story. His art also seems to have matured since ALEX + ADA, featuring more fluid action sequences and more refined facial expressions than before.

Just like with ALEX + ADA, I feel this story will take a little time to reach its full potential. However, it’s off to a solid start. I trust Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn to deliver a well-rounded, poignant story with characters we grow to love. However, if you weren’t already familiar with their work, you might feel the first issue needs something more urgent to pull you in. Other comic series often end with a cliffhanger or an imperative question at the end of their first issue. I kept feeling this was missing: that one last thing to pull us in to make the next issue a must instead of a want. Regardless, ETERNAL EMPIRE #1 tells us enough to be interested and leaves enough secret to have us hoping for more.

Make sure to check out ETERNAL EMPIRE #1 here.

ETERNAL EMPIRE #1
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
From the creators of ALEX + ADA comes a new comic set in a mysterious fantasy world. It's a solid introduction into a new series, though not packing a life-changing punch.
84 %
A solid start

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