By Daniel Vlasaty
Usually I don’t do fantasy books. Just can’t. They’re not my thing. I don’t know why, I generally just find myself bored by all things in the fantasy genre. But when I saw that the creative team behind Alex + Ada (Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn) was doing a new book, I got instantly excited. I enjoyed Alex + Ada, as well as other things I have read from the Luna Brothers. I didn’t even care what the book was about, I just jumped in. And I will say that the first page instantly intrigued me – some weird cult shit was going on. But then when I turned to page two and I saw a dragon, I think I automatically started to drift away. I just don’t like dragons and stories with dragons in them and blah blah blah.
But I pushed myself through. I mean this was only the second page, and I told myself to at least give the book a chance. Alex + Ada was also a bit of a slow burn, so I rolled with it.
A brief summary: An as-of-yet unnamed slave to the Empress’ Army begins have visions of…something. She appears bored with slave life, doesn’t take her (slave) work seriously and doesn’t participate in rituals that do not seem to be optional. She has another vision the night of a festival to celebrate the Empress’ victory in a war that has been raging for 120 years, after getting her ass kicked for not participating. This vision is of the three suns in the sky aligning in a certain way, a way that has not happened in ages. And she flees the slave camp, following her visions and a warmth that seems to be drawing her to it. But – surprise! – she is spotted while escaping. She gets her ass kicked some more, kicks a little ass herself and flees into a growing blizzard.
The writing is light and vague. There’s a lot of history between the slave class (the Haams) and the Empress’ Army (the Synnians?), but for the most part we don’t get much of that. Issue #1 stays pretty much focused on the present of the story. The problem with vague writing is I find it hard to give a shit about it. There is nothing likeable about the character, to me at least. She shows no emotion or drive or really any character at all. And I’m aware that this might be deliberate, she is a slave after all, and most likely her spirit has been broken and beaten and she’s got nothing left to give or emote. But even as she’s escaping, which should be tense and nerve-racking is kind of just blasé and whatever. It’s just something she’s doing. She basically wakes up after her three-suns vision and is like “I guess I’ll escape…or whatever.” That’s kind of her demeanor throughout the issue. She is just a flat character.
I’ve always liked Jonathan Luna’s art. It’s simple and basic, but I think it works for the more character-driven books he usually works on. Unfortunately, in Eternal Empire I found it to be overly simple and also kind of flat and boring. For example, there’s a 20-panel page showing nothing but snow falling. Even though I generally like his art, one problem I’ve always had with it is that he reuses panels. Which I find super lazy. A page with five or six panels where only one small detail changes, like a character’s eyes closing or the movement of a hand, etc., is boring to me. I want comic book art to show movement and progress. He does this a few times throughout this issue, and it’s always pissed me off.
I wanted to like Eternal Empire more than I did. I didn’t hate it, but I found my mind wandering while I was reading. I found myself not caring one way or the other what was happening on the page in front of me. But I will say that this was also a problem for me while reading the first issue of Vaughn and Luna’s previous collaboration, Alex + Ada, which I ended up liking quite a bit. That book was slow and drawn-out, and I have a feeling that this may be the case for Eternal Empire as well. So, my score for this review might seem low, but I am simply reviewing this individual issue, not the series as a whole, or its potential to become something I actually end up enjoying. I’m going to go ahead and call this a wait and see book.
Eternal Empire #1