(Obligatory full disclosure - I happen to know the main writer, and was provided an electronic copy for review purposes. If you ask me to torrent this comic, I will be forced to publicly shame you.)
In all honesty, I'm not really a big fan of the Hurt Locker-style military movie; perhaps it's because one of my best friends served in the first Gulf War, or maybe it's because I'm a relative pacificist (and when I say "pacifist", I mean "coward"), but there's something about the whole being-in-another-country-with-ambiguous-motives that doesn't quite appeal to me. It's not anything wrong with the genre - it's just something that I would not go out of my way to review.
So when Zone 4 pal Mike Luoma asked me to review Earthbound's Souverain # 1, I did so....reluctantly. In fact, I kind of was hoping that the book would leave me "meh".
Curse you, Mike, because I enjoyed this book.
It is a rather unique premise - soldier by day helps Iraqi people by night wearing a mask and fighting for honor - and the four short stories (including two prose pieces) sell it well. Much like Alibi Jones, this kind of genre mixing might not go well, but Souverain's tales manage to do so with a minimum of fuss, but a great deal of panache. There's a kind of pulpy, straight-ahead drive in the text pieces, and the two comic pieces - one an origin story, another the obligatory "working-with-the-authorities" piece - really do well to sell over the premise. (It helps that the art throughout the book really helps establish a great storytelling pace)
This could have easily been a slightly awkward mashup - however, Souverain is the kind of comic that we need more of: at a time when dramatic reboots and epic crossovers are becoming the norm, being able to tell short, distinctive stories is a relative rarity. Souverain manages a fine, delicate balance, becoming the kind of book that is hard to find - a well-written, solid premise that manages to sell a fantastic premise on an all too real-world basis, and that provides more "bang for the buck" than any major company comic.
Souverain is available through Indy Planet and Drive Through Comics....but this is one you definitely want to bug your comics shop owner into stocking.
Read it. You'll thank me later.