Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna’s Eternal Empire is a series I’ve been anticipating for some time, ever since its announcement by Image, in fact, as a fan of their work on Alex + Ada. Now taking on fantasy for the first time, the duo are going all-in with a full fantasy world, complete with a strange triple sun that governs the lives of the series’ characters in mysterious ways. The first issue is in shops this week.
This initial issue does an excellent job of presenting us with a main perspective character’s daily life, struggles, and reaction to a sudden change in her mentality. We meet a young woman with albino-like features who works in frost-laden fields for an Empress whose statue dominates the lives of the workers and whose soldiers keep the laboring populace under heel.
There’s something remarkable about the simplicity with which her life is presented. Luna uses a depth of field, presenting landscape at an equal distance that gives an agrarian feel to the rhythms of her life. Panels are not overcrowded with detail, but we are presented with basic situational conflicts as she starts to have strange visions of warmth and light connected to the triple suns of her world. Visions which eventually lead her to risk her life to seek their source.
First issues of fantasy series can be very tricky, with creators having to dial back the information in order to keep from overwhelming readers as they enter a new world, but Eternal Empire is refreshingly direct and well-paced to bring us into the story without bestowing too much lore on us in this first encounter. There’s a graceful pacing that feels both unhurried and reflective, giving you time to process what you’re seeing and hearing, and that’s an accomplishment in storytelling.
Also look out for a fascinating little essay in the back of issue #1 where the creators explain the positioning of the triple suns in this comic and the significance thereof.
I’m very much looking forward to the next issue of Eternal Empire. Issue #2 arrives June 7th, and it looks like this issue will introduce our second main character, a young man who is also having strange visions.
The covers for issues #1 and #2 are also interlocking: