Iron Empires Vol 1: Faith Conquers (Dark Horse)

Iron Empires

Rating: 4/5 – The Monkey King Howls as Hotok Burns

I love the kind of fiction that gives me a chance to gaze upon a world I have never seen; the more immersive, the better. I hold a special place in my heart for world designers. The sheer depth of vision needed to create on that scale astounds me. In comics this can be especially potent, because the vision is not simply told but shown.

The imagination can be an incredible framing device for the universal struggles of daily, present tense, life. This is why we as a fandom flock to everything from Star Wars to Spider-Man. We can’t help ourselves. When the world gets too real, we love to abandon the everyday and the mundane for the stars.

Faith Conquers is a creator owned vision; unique, unfiltered and made of nightmares.  Its universe is a vast and desperate expanse filled with lurking horrors called the Vaylen. These tiny parasite worms descend en masse on inhabited systems and husk the population; boring into their skulls until nothing of the host’s will remains. Sure, the host’s mind is still in there, somewhere, but all it can do is watch in the silence.

In Christopher Moeller’s imagination, only the Vaylen can hear you scream.

While their threat is everywhere, it is at its most looming along the fringes; in distant corridors of space too isolated for the Empire to defend.  Here, on a self-important little backwater world called Hotok, life is precious and short. Prime real estate for an exiled noble and his honor guard to die of old age, obscurity, or invasion; whichever comes first.

Trevor Faith, the noble in exile, is a hard talking, take-no-nonsense warrior-monk with poor impulse control. He and his Grey Rats, are sent in to help mediate a delicate political struggle between the orthodox national church and the religious cult called the CHOT. As a man of limited patience, Trevor’s every word is less of a diplomatic solution and more of a prelude to war. What follows is a game of intrigue and warfare as Trevor brings his men and their Iron (battle armor) to bear against the zealots of the CHOT and their Vaylen allies.

There is something deep and uninterrupted about Moeller’s vision that really comes out in the art. It has this still blending quality that reminds me of oil paint. The result is a world in constant motion. A place, where everything is so worn in and scarred, that even the shadows have jagged edges.

Moeller’s writing is fast, well paced and so crammed with names and concepts it’s a wonder it doesn’t burst. Every now and again you catch glimpses of 40K or Dune or Bladerunner and they are unabashed. Moeller clearly has a fondness for all the greats of science fiction and he wears their inspiration proudly on his sleeve. This shared connection adds an extra layer and charm that has kept me returning to this work and wanting more since it came out in ’94.

Guest Reviewer: Asher L. Turnaround – Covering the full spectrum of comics culture

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