“With great power comes great responsibility.”
A quote often attributed to a certain web-slinger’s uncle (Voltaire said it a few hundred years earlier, actually), that nonetheless seems fitting for the way that Toyo Harada views himself and the world around him. Without question Harada has a messiah complex; the difference between him and the guy on the corner with the cardboard sign heralding the end of days, however, is that Harada has the power to see his vision through to its twisted end.
Imperium #1 takes place following the end of Harbinger: Omegas, with a fully realized Harada leading his remaining psiots in a bid for world domination. Now that world knows who and what he is, every government on the planet has made him public enemy #1. The would-be emperor has taken on an air of desperation, willing to sacrifice tactics and covert strategems for speed and violence. A simple enough setup, but the execution is the thing here.
And it is flawless.
Joshua Dysart has crafted a deliciously amoral supervillain in the megalomaniacal Harada, and finally turned him loose. This book has the feel of late 90’s Marvel titles, most obviously the X-Men during the Zero Tolerance phase, with the noted difference that we’d be seeing things from the perspective of the Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants. If Unity is the go-to hero team of the Valiant universe, then they’ve got some formidable opponents in the Harbinger Foundation. I can see epic, mythic, battles in the near future.
I couldn’t help but to also see some striking parallels between Harada and Magneto; both men are extremely powerful meta-human types and they both take questionable approaches to achieving their ideas of utopia. Beyond that, Harada is more deceptive and ruthless than Lehnsherr, if such a thing is possible.
Valiant continues to establish itself a force to be reckoned with and the big three better take note. Valiant’s books occupy a space that has been largely overlooked in recent years by the larger publishers; that is, character driven stories that focus much more on overall development and engaging, personal narratives, however grand, than say, big universe changing events carried out by franchise characters. A consequence of success and longevity most likely, and yet that does little to change the fact that Valiant is still on an increasingly hot streak in its own right.
This is the best premier issue I’ve read in quite some time, and I expect that Imperium will be racking up a few awards in the near future. If you haven’t already figured it out, you should definitely be reading this book, it has everything a comic book lover could want; Compelling story, interesting characters and, of course, Doug Braithwaite’s amazing art. You won’t find a better single issue in the opening quarter of 2015.