I approached Southern Cross warily since the question of “what if the Confederacy won” can be a very sensitive topic. Creators have to carefully balance their vision with not probing delicate issues blindly. Dorvall’s story manages to present controversial issues without ignoring the strong feelings surrounding the Civil War. While some aspects of the plot shocked me a little, notably Lincoln’s removal from office by a military junta, they were supported by historical facts blended with the new fiction presented by the creators. At the same time the numerous storylines presented in the seventy-page volume confused me a little. I would begin piecing together one story, and then, suddenly, it would shift to another set of characters; however, I am fully cognizant that Annuit Coeptis is the first installment in a much longer series. Many of the plotlines that left me scratching my head will, hopefully, be tied together by volume seven.
My bigger issue with the plot is that so many characters were thrown at me that I never developed a bond with any of them. While I didn’t enjoy seeing anyone die in the story, and many do, it wasn’t the visceral gut blow that comes from someone you have come to care about over the course of the story. I probably most identified with Mary Loads, because she was the only major female character, but I had forgotten who she was between her first and second appearances. It took a few scans of the material to piece together that she is the daughter of Senator Loads, a major opponent of negotiating with the Confederacy.
I loved the detailed borders on each page of Southern Cross, but I was a little startled that the artwork looks more like something printed from an early 3D-rendered video game than the type of art I’ve become accustomed to seeing in comics. I’m sure that it takes a lot of time to create each page, but my overall impression was that a lot of the characters were very generic. It was difficult for me to tell the non-historical white military characters apart, and even some of the congressional characters ran together.
Overall, Southern Cross: Annuit Coeptis presents some interesting ideas, but it left me with more questions than answers. I personally would have preferred greater focus on one or two storylines instead of the broad survey of the time period presented; however, if you enjoy speculative historical fiction, this is the comic for you. It carries enough weight to keep hardcore fans of the genre satisfied with a look at what could have been.
3.5 Military Juntas Against a Beloved Historical Figure out of 5