Imitation Arrives in Image Comics "Sovereign 1" | Fanboys Anonymous

Imitation Arrives in Image Comics "Sovereign 1"

Posted by Unknown Thursday, March 20, 2014
It's easy to see the impact a single significant work can have on an industry. Just look at the horde of vampire content that emerged after the initial success of Twilight. The modern entertainment machine constantly "chases the dragon," or seeks to replicate a sudden significant success, and the comic book world is no exception. Because of this, it's only a matter of time before knockoffs and derivatives of HBO's hit series Game of Thrones, based on the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, invaded the comic book stands. A book that fits this category most obviously is the new series Sovereign by Chris Roberson. The comic, much like the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, is split, telling stories from different perspectives within the same world. Unfortunately, the similarities hardly stop there.

Cover for Image comics Sovereign one by James Roberson

The first installment, entitled Leaving Silence, follows three individuals of the religious order The Luminari, a group tasked with disposing of the dead via rituals, as they come across a destroyed village in the lowlands. Their leader, Brother Swift, is what you'd get if you crossed the Night's Watch from Game of Thrones with Batman. He and his assistant Sister Wren must protect Father Griffon as he attempts to disperse the spirits of the departed, aided by a magic power known as The Sight. As Father Griffon performs the ritual, demons possess the dead bodies, essentially turning them into zombies (although they look pretty similar to white walkers). The mini story ends with Swift and Wren being overwhelmed by the demons as they attempt to fend them off with swords.

The Luminari battles daemons in Image Comics' Sovereign oneThe next story, Blade and Bow, jumps us to the world of the Horse Lords (I'm not even going to comment on the similarity here), where the young, strong, and cocky Janramir is on a pretty typical testosterone-infused hunting trip with his fellow Horse Lords. This story is a disappointing 5 pages long and amounts to little more than 3 big plot points; Janramir goes hunting with his friends, they eat the large, nondescript beast they kill, and they return home to find Janramir's father, the head honcho of the Horse Lords, is dead.

Brother Swift suits up in Sovereign one by James RobersonThe final story, From the Depths, follows an afternoon aboard a ship on its way to a place called Khend. I can see how having a map of this world could be deemed a waste of story space, or too much of a calling card of A Game of Thrones, but at this point the need for context between these stories is starting to become crucial. By now we've met a whole host of characters with very alien names who have had little or no significant moments to internalize them as people. We're once again just in the middle of some exploit for a purpose we don't know in a land we've never heard of. I don't know if they've been sailing for a while, the conditions of the trip, or how I'm suppose to feel. I just know they're on a boat (with a significant lack of flippie floppies). The boat eventually comes across a massive creature in the sea that's believed to be a dragon. I may invent a drinking game for Game of Thrones knockoff stories: a drink for every dragon. Unfortunately, the creature turns out not to be a dragon but the corpse of a finback that's been miraculously reanimated. This may have been a more compelling plot point if we hadn't already learned in the first story that creatures can come back from the dead in this world, but I suppose the effect here is to tie it all together.

Sovereign ultimately sets out to do quite a bit in a short amount of time. It attempts to establish in a single issue what a book like Game of Thrones would have done over the course of dozens, if not hundreds of pages. It's an intriguing literary experiment, but I think it fails. It's hard to get a bearing on characters in a new world in such a small amount of time, especially when you are splitting pages among various stories. Coming out of this, I felt that I hadn't really gotten to meet anyone. Furthermore, the last few pages of the book are prose unaccompanied by any art. While I'm not opposed to this method when done right, here it simply speaks of things that would have been nice to know before I read the issue or that would have been fun to see visually depicted. I know there isn't much space in the modern comic, but it's a visual medium. I assume that's why this story is in a comic and not in a book. I could go further into the blatant Game of Thrones references, but instead of nitpicking, I think it's easier to say it fails because it wears the influence so blatantly. There are ways to emulate a story in style and structure without such jarringly similar plot points.

All in all, Sovereign 1 was an ambitious story that is probably better consumed in a collected volume than a single issue. What did you think of Sovereign? Do you agree with the Game of Thrones comparison? Let us know in the comments section below.

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