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Imperium #1 [Review]

imperium001Imperium I: Overture

Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Doug Braithwaite
Colors: Brian Reber & Dave McCaig
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Raul Allen
Editors: Alejandro Arbona, Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I’ve been looking forward to this, but on first reading found myself rather let-down. Consciously, analyzing, I can see it’s quite a good story. But this readily suffers from being only one PIECE of a singular, larger story. I read this in a mostly intentional “vacuum,” I’ve pointedly NOT kept up with spoilers, interviews, solicitations (other than seeing THAT an issue would be out), and all that, so where Harbinger ran 25 issues and ended to make way for the Harbinger: Omegas mini-series and now this…as well as Valiant in large part seeming to be moving toward limited-series over long-term ongoing stuff, I haven’t a clue if this is going to be a 4, 5, or 6 issue story; if it’s a mini-series or quasi-ongoing, or what. I see no “of X” with the number so would assume it may be an ongoing or at least a multi-arc/multi-volume series when it’s all collected…but most folks know what “they” say about “assume.”

There’s also a several-page insert in the middle of the issue, an Imperium Prelude, that I’d have to check recent not-yet-read Valiant issues I’ve gotten and keep an eye out in others this month to see if they have it, too. But its placement completely interrupted the flow of the story for me, taking me out of stuff and leaving me distracted more than engaged, and sent my mind toward thinking about other events, whether or not this is “just” an event, and so on. For this issue at least, I think that either should have been left out…or should have actually been placed at the beginning. Moreso, I think it should have been a separate piece altogether, perhaps a promo thing to be given out at comic shops as a 4-paged comic or such to promote this series. (I may even go so far as to rip it out of this issue and file it ahead of this in a box).

We open with Darpan, as an old man, traveling  about a clean, utopian future (well, to those of us reading this in 2015, anyway). He then finds his mine drawn back, and wakes in the present to realize he’d psychically experienced a lifetime in a “dream” projected from Harada. Harada gives Darpan and the others gathered a speech about how they must now adopt different tactics in bringing about the utopian vision he was granted by the Bleeding Monk. However, terrible things will need to be done to get to the end result…and that does not seem to sit well with everyone involved. Harada begins by staking claim to his own territory…putting himself at odds with the planet and the various different people–such as Aric, X-O Manowar–who will certainly come after him.

My initial griping above left aside, and “digging in” while thinking further on this issue, it IS a good issue and a solid start to a series. We’re shown a future, and then the present with people who want to move the world into that future vision. We’re introduced to several characters along with Toyo Harada himself and shown where they stand…undoubtedly some foreshadowing for coming conflict. And for whatever it might say about me personally, there’s both an authenticity to Harada’s end-goal and a part of me that would like to see him achieve it (as long as I don’t have to think too much about what he’ll have to do to get there).

If you’ve read Harbinger and/or Harbinger: Omegas, this is the next “phase” of the overall, ongoing story begun there. Despite that, as much as any such series is, Imperium #1 stands as a decently-accessible jumping-on point. You’ll benefit from the added context of reading Harbinger and Omegas, but you can jump into this pretty well by itself.

I like the art throughout the book…and thanks to the distraction from the placement of the prelude pages, I actually didn’t get distracted by the art itself or find anything really to complain about. It’s a high quality style, realistic without being overly so, plenty of detail over skimping…and quite familiar to me, having read other Valiant stuff with art from Braithwaite.

I’ve enjoyed Dysart‘s Valiant stuff and the “whole” of his stories tend to wind up larger than the parts. Paired with Braithwaite‘s art, this is one of the higher-quality not-exactly-superhero/not-exactly-NOT-superhero books out there…and well worth checking out. Alternatively, I’m confident this will make a very good reading experience in collected-edition format, whether it’s one volume or several.

Harbinger #9 [Review]

harbinger009Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Pere Perez
Color Art: Ian Hannin
Covers: Mico Suayan and Khari Evans
Lettering: Rob Steen
Associate Editor: Jody LeHeup
Executive Editor: Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant Entertainment
Cover Price: $3.99

Nine (ten if you count the recent #0) issues in, and this title’s getting rather complex, juggling a number of characters. While it does so, this seems a fairly Faith-centric issue, focusing more on her than the other characters…which to me, really is the way to go; allowing character development and for the reader to get to know the character better, while keeping the entire, overall story progressing.

After being temporarily depowered and falling from a dangerous height, Faith comes to and discovers her friends/teammates have been captured by Project Rising Spirit (we as readers witness the kids’ capture). Interspersed, we get flashbacks to how Faith got into comics, a tragedy in her early life, as well as some added details that flesh out her off-panel time several issues ago…and the issue ends on a key moment for Faith and Peter as Project Rising Spirit prepares to move out with their mission accomplished.

Visually, this is yet another strong issue. I honestly don’t recall as of this typing whether Perez has been on every issue thus far, but the look of this issue solidly fits with earlier issues, and seems entirely consistent with my memory of earlier and most-recent issues. The visual style has a certain simplicity to it–it’s not overly or distractingly-detailed…but it has a certain authenticity that makes the characters all seem that much more real: they’re not virtual clones of one another…the faces and bodies are distinct and varied, as the characters actually are.

Story-wise it’s painfully obvious (particularly with recent house ads and other “meta” information (online news/interviews/etc that are not part of the story itself) that this issue is continuing to put pieces in place for the upcoming Harbinger Wars crossover/arc/event with Bloodshot. While I don’t much care for the feeling of “let’s get THIS over with so we can get to What We’ve Been Promised,” it still resonates with me a bit, as it’s that much more obvious how these titles are beginning to fit together as part of the shared universe.

While we don’t have much in the way of development for the other characters–we mainly just see what fate’s befallen them–we get quite a bit with Faith…and it makes her a much more interesting character. It’d be easy to “assume” stuff with her, but having the actual details keeps her grounded and relatable…on the surface, one might see her as some cliché, yet it seems to me that much of what she is even so far in this book comes from her making conscious choices, not mindlessly following the clichés.

Though there are plenty of positives for the other Valiant titles…more and more I find myself with Harbinger at the top of the list for the nice art and the complex, realistic (as much as they can be: that’s a given) story and characters. If you’re only going to follow one Valiant title, I’d be inclined to make it Harbinger.

Harbinger #2 [Review]

Full review posted to cxPulp.com.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 3.5/5
Overall: 4/5

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