By Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna
Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna (Alex + Ada) have paired up again to, this time, bring us a story set in a fantasy world. Their style of storytelling gives us a quiet reflective look into a world that is being cruelly ruled and one woman’s destiny to escape it. The creators of this book have given the story a very subdued feeling that may or may not work depending on where the story goes from here.
Vaughn’s writing is adequate, but seems unoriginal. The premise of breaking free from an enslaved monotonous life to seek out your destiny is a standard trope used in story after story. Even with the presence of dragons the story seems like one of 100 others that have come before it. It falls into the same category as other stories set in a fantasy world, complete with tyranny and cruel leaders. Of course, there is always room for a version of this story that is original and well written, but the reader will be hard pressed to find it in Eternal Empire. Vaughn’s writing in the past has been excellent and fits well with a modern setting, but it does not stand out here. At times the characters are too subdued for what is happening to them. Even in times of distress their reactions seem hollow. The main character is quiet and broken, which is fine, but every other character seems to display this stoic void as well. Vaughn is at least able to successfully communicate the main character’s loneliness and then desire to heed a call she feels pulling her to escape. She also has written the religious call and responses convincingly and shows that some thought has been put into the world building.
Luna’s artwork complements Vaughn’s style of writing nicely as in their previous collaborations. His minimalist style is a refreshing break from other fantasy titles that tend to over exaggerate the bodies of men and women. The style may be minimal but it is not lacking as Luna gives us realistic portrayals of the human body. Movements and gestures are captured in naturals moments that the reader can identify with. There is also a really nice series of progressive cinematic widescreen panels displaying the characters journey. Thorughout the book they stick to this widesceen layout and deviate here and there for action scenes. Using this style to the extent they have leaves the reader feeling like they are watching the events from far away instead of being a part of them. However, the style does not complement this story as well as it does Vaughn’s writing. In fact the combination of the story and art may be the downfall of this book. The antagonists sound like they should be scary or at least threatening, but come off looking like people in poor cosplay. Even the dragon looks a little wimpy. The coloring falls in place with the style, but fails to stand out. The story and art have been conjured as too mono-toned and dreary even for a land that is under the same type of spell.
That being said, Vaughn and Luna have in the past done some great work together. If you are a fan, then you will want to stick around and see where things go from here. There is potential here for it to become something better. It could be exactly the look that the duo were going for in this first issue while subsequent issues may differ. First time readers may find the book too lacking in originality and interesting art to continue or even pick up this book in the first place. It seems to be a miss for the creative duo, but we may not discover Eternal Empire’s destiny until later in the series.