Khari Evan and Joshua Dysart are finally back together for this issue of Imperium. Joining them is the amazingly talented colorist Ulises Arreola and letterer Dave Sharpe. I have to start by saying a few things about this series, and this issues creative team. Imperium is probably one of the best books in the market right now. It is creative, dynamic, and captivating. There is nothing else like it at the moment, and that is what makes this book so beautiful. So not only do we have that, but we also get the fantastic Khari Evans as the artist for this issue. Khari and Joshua have accomplished some amazing things in the past, and I am really excited to see what they can do together on this arc.
So far the team opens up strong. Joshua continues to push out this amazingly ambiguous theme of world peace, while also mixing back in some issues the disillusionment of adulthood. Things, and people, are not perfect in this world, and the art team renders this well. Between facial expressions, body language, or the general backgrounds, Khari does a great job portraying the emotions of the panels. Then Ulises comes along to pull you into the story with equally stunning color work. The entire issue is a page turner.
From the first panel we see a young Livewire, Amanda, sneaking to a room to play chess on a red iMac Flavour. She is then confronted by a familiar face, Harada, and the rest is history. Nowadays Amanda is a cunning and powerful secret agent, who created and lead the world’s first superhero team, Unity. Breaking into one of Harada’s secret server clusters in India, Amanda heads a covert operation to gather further intelligence about Harada and his Foundation Zone. However, all is not what it seems, and Amanda is confronted by an army of Foundation Zone sympathizers. After this newly arrived army deals with Amanda, and her team, she runs into an unlikely acquaintance who humbly asks for her help. Can these two take down Toyo, the closest person Amanda has for family?
I sure hope not! I have grown quite fond of Toyo Harada and his band of ambiguous world heroes. While the rest of the Valiant Universe sees Imperium as a group of violent futurists, Joshua Dysart knows better. This is a beautiful story lacking any sort of good or evil, where the “villains” are trying to save the world, and the “heroes” are trying to stop them. Along with that overarching theme for the entire series, this issue tackles some more profound dilemmas of disillusionment. Joshua continues from his pages of Harbinger, and some of Kindt’s work on Unity, to show the father/daughter connection that exists betwixt Amanda McGee and Toyo Harada. With more spotlight on their past together, this issue really shows that what we might have idealized as children, such as our parents, may not be as infallible as we once thought. I just loved the struggle that Amanda goes through in this issue; she shares the same dream as Harada, but does not agree with his means. As an adult, I think everyone can relate to this.
Like always, Joshua did a fantastic job on both the narrative and the dialogue. This was a very tech savvy issue, and he seemed to have done his research. As a professional Computer Scientist myself, I enjoyed the references to Rootkits, Basic, and Spaghetti Code. My only complaint is the habitual use of the work ‘hack’. It is a personal pet peeve, and most of the time that word can be thrown out or replaced entirely with the correct term ‘crack’. But either way, the writing for this issue was phenomenal.
On the art side of things, Khari Evans did a stellar job. Every panel of his bursts at the gutters with passion. When a character is angry, you feel the rage. When someone is compassionate, you feel the love. When someone is confused, you feel lost. His lines are so clean, there is no ambiguity to what is happening in each scene. I, personally, have always loved Khari’s faces. There is something about his noses and lips that resonates really well with the Valiant Universe. And not only does he do his foreground well, his backgrounds and clutter are highly detailed as well. Even the server racks surrounding Amanda is crisp and highly rendered. He paired really on this issue with Joshua, especially in the scenes with Angela Baingana. Those panels were so eldritch that it was menacing even just to watch her work. I would also like to note two specific panels, to attest to Khari’s talents. The first being Baingana’s weird biological device. I am not sure whether it came from Joshua’s mind or Khari’s, but that was one of the most creative creatures I have ever seen. The detail in that box was incredibly mesmerizing. The second is the wide shot of the Foundation Zone. I know a lot of these kind of panels are easy to get overlooked, but not this one. If you really pay attention, you can see the amount of detail and time that went into that single panel. It is definitely inspiring.
And not only did Khari do an amazing job with that wide-shot, so did Ulises. I swear, every single building had its own color, shadows, and highlights. I can only imagine how long the flats took, let alone the rendering. Ulises does such a good job pushing and pulling things to/from the foreground, midground, and backgrounds, it is really fun to look at. Another one of his stong suits is with water. Every scene of his with the ocean is really well colored. It is how I would imagine Miller of Seinkiwicz to do the scenes. As stated before, in my recent X-O Manowar #44 review, my main criticism of Ulises’ colors is with his glow effects. Sometimes they are very well done, like in the scenes with the young Amanda, and sometimes they are just over used, like in Baingana’s lab. This habitual use of the effect doesn’t necessarily take away from the art, it just is distracting at times. Other than that, he did a another great job.
All in all, this is another amazing issue of Imperium. I have really come to expect nothing less than perfect from this series, and this team definitely delivered. Joshua did an amazing job writing. He emphatically hands out thought-provoking themes and haunting plots, while simultaneously not treating the reader like a halfwit. It is also great to see Khari back in action, and I cannot wait to see what else he has in store for this arc. And as per usual, Ulises did a great job highlighting Khari’s art. Oh, and another shout out to Dave for a great job on the letters. Thank you for not cluttering the panels, it is appreciated. I highly suggest this book to anyone and everyone, along with the last 12 issues. It is not only worth the $4, but also the 15 minutes to read and 2 hours to ponder. 5 out of 5 stars.
Written by JOSHUA DYSART
Art by KHARI EVANS
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment