Iron Empires Vol. 1: Faith Conquers

By Christopher Moeller
168 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

About six years ago, one of the books in DC’s short-lived Helix imprint was Sheva’s War, by Christopher Moeller. I remember thinking that the art was gorgeous, but knowing that it was the second volume in a series I decided to pass on buying the book. (Let it now be known: I am solely responsible for the failure of the Helix line.) The first series had been published years earlier, and finding it would have been near-impossible. Well, it’s better late than never, because Dark Horse is now reissuing Moeller’s Iron Empires series as two trade paperbacks, with the first volume (Faith Conquers) now available.

Trevor Faith is being sent to the edge of the empire, as the Cotar-Fomas of the planet Hotok. What he’s being sent to, though, is a world that’s grown complacant and full of self-importance. Even if Faith can fight his way through the bureaucracy and sloth that has taken over Hotok, he should keep his attention in other places as well. For Hotok is on the edge of the Empire, and the dreaded Valyen Worms were ever to return, surely Hotok would be the first strike. If only the people of Hotok could understand this.

Reading Faith Conquers, one gets the impression that this was Moeller’s first writing in comics. That’s not to say that it was bad—it’s not—but just that it’s a little rough in places. Moeller clearly has a lot of huge ideas about the universe of Iron Empires, with how religion and politics go hand-in-hand, the splinter groups that exist, and everything in-between. It’s just not quite translating to the page. What’s familiar to the characters is at times confusing to readers, with foreign words and phrases dropped in without enough context to always piece things together. Likewise, some of the lesser characters in Faith Conquers seemed indistinct to me as a reader, without seeing the differences that clearly existed in Moeller’s head but just didn’t make it onto the page. I’m not saying that Moeller needed lots of long exposition narrations or to dumb his story down, just that the script needed a little bit of a polish. The basic story itself is strong; Moeller does a good job of portraying an empire’s descent on both a large and a small scale, and he makes the parasitic Valyen threat positively creepy. Trevor Faith himself is such a fun character; he’s got a natural charisma that makes it very obvious why his soldiers follow him. Even when the smaller details fall to the side, the main story itself is intriguing.

Moeller’s paintings in Faith Conquers are exactly what I expected to see based on his covers for Lucifer, with lush and well-realized pieces of art. Moeller’s design sense is outstanding, able to create outfits and uniforms that say a lot about the characters involved. When we first see Faith, he dominates the page, both with physical presence and scope. Moeller has a great visual understanding of everything in the world of Iron Empires, from the characters to the suits of armor and all points in-between. Moeller’s also got a great sense of movement; there’s a sequence where Geil pulls her hair up that looks almost like frames from a filmstrip, the action moves so smoothly from one panel to the next. It’s a visual delight.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some real rough edges in Faith Conquers. What it also has, though, is a lot of charm and scope. The strengths far outweigh the weaknesses, and at the end of Faith Conquers I found myself really wondering about the next volume. Fortunately, a collection of Sheva’s War is around the corner. I’ll be very curious to see if Moeller’s next journey into the Iron Empires helped him polish his craft as a writer. More than that, though, I want to know what happened next. In the end, that says it all.

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