The Sovereigns, Volume 1: End of the Golden Age trade paperback
Writer: Ray Fawkes
Artist: Johnny Desjardins
Magnus: Kyle Higgins, Jorge Fornes & Chris O’Halloran
Turok: Chuck Wendig, Alvaro Sarraseca & Triona Farrell
Doc Spektor: Aubrey Sitterson, Dylan Burnett & Triona Farrell
Letters: Taylor Esposito
Cover artist: Stephen Segovia
Editors: Matt Idelson & Kevin Ketner
It was only when I started reading this collected edition that I completely clued into the fact that the classic Gold Key heroes had been pulled out of the Valiant stable and launched anew in a separate continuity by Dynamite Entertainment. The publisher appears to be trying to reimagine these recognizable figures into new properties so as to attract new readers. It’s probably a wise strategy, as Dynamite would essentially erase the Valiant association and accompanying expectations. The Sovereigns appears to be Dynamite’s attempt to give the previous incarnations of these characters a final sendoff. Again, not a bad idea, but the script is lacking — notably when it comes to characterization.
World peace has been achieved in the year 2020 thanks to the efforts of four heroes: Magnus, Doc Spektor, Solar and Turok. Each governs as a sovereign over his particular state, ensuring safety and security for all under their purview. However, a monstrous threat emerges in Turok’s Lost Valley, threatening not only that leader’s people, but the entire world. As Magnus, Spektor and Solar endeavor to solve the mystery and identify the threat, they begin to realize that the darkness isn’t just a danger now, but over the course of centuries.
Johnny Desjardins’s style is appropriately gritty given the overall tone of the main story. His art reminds me of the work of Doug Braithwaite, though I found his figures to be a little stiff and elongated at times here. He certainly seems to have captured the spirit of Turok nicely, as I was reminded of the style of Tim Truman in those early scenes. Honestly, the visual element in this book that impressed me the most was the lettering by Taylor Esposito. The letterer developed some unique dialogue motifs to convey the superhuman and/or inhuman qualities of Spektor, Solar and the robots serving Magnus. It’s work equaling that of Todd Klein.
I almost didn’t write this review because I almost didn’t make it through the first chapter of this book. Fawkes’s script is incredibly stilted, and I found it to be a bit of a slog to get through at first. I stuck with it, and eventually I was drawn in by the plot. The early chapters, however, we’re a bit of a challenge, as exactly where when things were happening wasn’t clear. Some bolder narrative captions earlier in the book, to differentiate among the various time periods in which the story unfolds, would have been helpful.
What’s interesting about the story is the political nature and strained alliances among the heroes. They’ve achieved a world utopia, but it’s a precarious one, in part because they don’t trust each other or work together anymore. Fawkes’s ultimate message maybe that isolationism is a path fraught with peril. What keeps the story from truly resonating, though, is the fact that characterization takes a backseat here. Each of the titular heroes is rather one-dimensional. Turok is driven by his thirst for conflict while Magnus is defined by his sense of responsibility. Spektor is arrogant, while Solar is disinterested in those populating the planet below him/her. There’s nothing relatable to be found in the script. The script is often overly flowery in tone, thereby distancing the reader further.
A fifth Gold Key character plays a significant role in the story as well: the Mighty Samson. I thought it was kind of cute that he carries four gold keys, representing the other heroes, as part of his mission in a post-apocalyptic landscape. But again, Fawkes chooses to define him by his mission and a sense of mystery, and I never really felt like I was on his side.
The three short backup stories offer glimpses at the redesigned and reimagined heroes to be relaunched after this event book. With the Magnus and Spektor segments, we do find more grounded characters. We also find some added diversity; Magnus is now a woman, for example. However, Dynamite has chosen to transform Turok into a black man, but that seems like a misstep, as it discards his previous indigenous identity. 5/10