An evil empire. A handful of rebels. Magic. It might sound familiar, but Eternal Empire is something different.
Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna's Eternal Empire recently completed its first arc at Image Comics, and is gearing up for a second with January 2018's #6. The second major project for the duo after Alex + Ada, it's planned as a long-form high fantasy story taking more from Asia than the typical Eastern European style.
With Eternal Empire Volume 1 due out next week, Newsarama talked with the duo about the story thus far and what's to come.
Newsarama: Sarah, Jonathan, how do you look back on your first five issues?
Jonathan Luna: Like many other storytellers, I can’t see my books in the same way the audience does. Sarah and I have working on Eternal Empire since January 2016 and we’ve only just released issue #5. It took a good amount of time to world-build, until we started writing. So, looking back on the last five issues, I see a ton of hard work. Ultimately, I’m proud of it. I’ve been wanting to tell a high fantasy story for two decades, and Eternal Empire Volume 1 will be another baby in my library of work.
Nrama: How did what you planned to do end up turning out once all the issues had been written, drawn, colored and published?
Sarah Vaughn: Comics are an interesting challenge, and the process is different for everyone. Everything looks and feels different the farther along in process we get. Things that we thought would work turn out not to. Other things need tiny tweaks. Some things are satisfyingly perfect, while others just magically work out that we never expected. There’s a lot of problem solving involved, even well into production.
Though we’ve made some changes, the foundation is still very much the same. And when all is said and done, and I read the issues, I’m really proud of them.
Nrama: How would you frame the series as a whole-thus far for someone starting with Vol. 1 and not just the first issue?
Vaughn: Eternal Empire is a fantasy about a man and woman trying to escape a brutal empire, who discover they have a synergistic fire power when in close proximity to each other, and that they’ll need each other if they’re going to survive.
Nrama: I get a little bit of Avatar: The Last Airbender/The Legend of Korra out of this in terms of the nation-states and elementals. What were your inspirations for this - and did you discover any subconscious ones now looking back at the five issues done so far?
Luna: I haven’t seen much of Avatar/Korra yet, but I can see how they’re similar. It’s probably because - as the illustrator of this series - I draw more from Asia than Northern Europe, which is traditionally used in fantasy. I don’t know if there are strong influences I can point to. Sarah and I have just generally loved fantasy since childhood, and wanted to tell a classic story with a twist.
Nrama:In this first volume, Tair and Rion meet and find themselves drawn to Nifaal - to learn about their past, but also in hopes of a free future. What does Nifaal symbolize to them?
Vaughn: Nifaal is the last standing country against the Empire. It represents freedom and spirit. So much of the Empire is resigned to its fate, and as Tair and Rion defy the Empire, they see Nifaal as one of the few other groups that are also defiant.
Nrama: And how bad exactly is the Eternal Empress and the Empire?
Luna: We haven’t gotten to see much of the Empress’s bad side in volume one, but we’ll definitely be seeing more of her and how horrible she can be in the second volume.
Vaughn: The Empire itself is cruel and unrelenting, with a strict hierarchical system. How bad the Empire is depends on who you ask, but I think it’s safe to say that no one feels safe in it, except the Empress herself.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals with Eternal Empire given the first volume comes out in November and the new arc begins in January?
Luna: I hope Eternal Empire reaches more readers, and that they enjoy it enough to continue reading the series, whether it be picking up the singles or waiting for Volume 2. Volume 1 contains issues #1 - 5 and issue #6 will be released about a month later, in early January. So, it’s a great time to jump onboard!