Writer: Scott Lobdell
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: DC Comics/Wildstorm
This series debuts with a strong premise, and an average execution. The idea behind Manifest Eternity is an interesting one: after decades of interstellar war, mankind makes peace with the dolphinlike Trillians, only to be attacked by an unnamed race of magic-wielders who ride dragons through space. It's a mixture of medieval fantasy and science fiction, a combination that can go very far if it's used properly.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Scott Lobdell can pull it off. There are two basic approaches to this type of story: you can either focus on specific characters in the context of the war raging in the background (something like Peter Milligan's Bad Company), or you can focus on the war itself at the expense of developing a stable, fleshed-out cast (X-Men 3). Considering Lobdell's never been great at the large-scale stuff, he probably should have chosen Door Number One - however, based on the events of this issue and the way it's written, it doesn't look like we should be invested in any specific figures.
The issue is structured on a three-tiered plot: we have the flashback story of Bozydej and Tarkington escaping captivity, the peace conference narrated in the present by two unknown voices, and an aside to the Magic Kingdom (no, not that one), nicely rendered by artist Dustin Nguyen and featuring a different style of narration, to emphasize the strange world we're glimpsing. But none of these plotlines intersect: Bozydej's time as a POW hints that he doesn't trust the Trillians, except they're not the bad guys here, so there's little point to his suspicions. The magical entities declare war for reasons that make little sense: they claim the humans have "conquered their own people," apparently on the same day the peace conference celebrates unity.
What's missing here is the crucial background info: did the humans actually defeat the Trillians, making this less of a peace treaty and more of a surrender? Because that would justify the concerns of the mystical creatures, and cast the humans in a problematic light (they're getting what they deserve). But Lobdell spends very little time on the events leading up to this new conflict; that allows him to get right to the opening salvos, with the side-effect of dropping us in the middle of things with very little context to go on.
Also, points off for stilted dialogue: "At long last, [evil alien] Kst! I was afraid you'd die in a ship battle, and I'd miss the chance to see you die up close!" Somewhere in California, the Governator is wishing he'd adlibbed that in his last film.
It's not exactly the most spectacular debut issue in the history of Wildstorm, but Lobdell can still turn it around. The concept driving the series is a strong one, with lots of potential, and Manifest Eternity will live or die based on how that potential is used.
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