Issue 16 of Imperium is nothing, short of a masterpiece. Writer Joshua Dysart gives one last hurrah to this outstanding series and goes out with bang. He touches on deep seeded issues, within humanity, that you just do not get in today’s cliche comic book industry. To aid him in this, he also teams up with the one of a kind co-creator/artist Khari Evans; who’s art truly matches Joshua’s scripts not only in talent, but also in tone. And as a bonus, both the colorist, Ulises Arreola, and the letter, Dave Sharpe, best even themselves for the final touches.
Reading this issue, I was in complete and utter awe of Joshua’s work. In a sea of monotonous, mind numbing, superhero books, Joshua spills out this beautiful script that is unlike anything else on the shelves. The conversation between Amanda and Sunlight on Snow, alone, shoves the true ugliness of humanity right in your face; then after that pensive moment he throws you in a state of existential crisis. It reminded me a lot of the first few issues of Alan Moore’s The Saga of the Swamp Thing.
What follows that conversation is more perfectly paced exposition on the true hero of Valiant, Toyo Harada. It is in this issue that Joshua cuts him open, and places him under a microscope; just so the world can see his biggest fears, flaws, and his deepest regrets. Not often, and almost never in this day and age, will you ever see a writer respect a villain this deeply.
And speaking of respect, could it not be more perfect to see Khari end this series with Joshua. This mythos, which is now far deviated from just an homage to Shooter and Lepham, was initially built by these two creators. Toyo’s first conflict with Amanda, his disappointment in Peter, his veil torn asunder, and then his climb from the grave, it all started way back in 2012 with Khari’s gorgeous linework.
For me it is hard to even imagine Toyo without his round nose and pouty lips. Khari is a unique artist, in the way that you can pick his books out of any crowd. This issue is no different. Whether it is inside of a sinking freighter, or the outskirts of jungle, or in the heat of naval warfare, his attention to detail, and use of photo realism, will take your breath away.
It is also worth noting that Ulises is at the peak of his game this issue. Often I criticise his overuse of glow effects, sorry Ulises, but in this issue it just fits so perfectly. And the panel with the black-hole at the center of the galaxy… I stared at that artwork for so long, just wondering how he even did what he did, that it took me about a half hour just to read the entire book.
Not to mention Dave on letters. Damn that man can outline a story. His placement of narration and dialogue is maddeningly perfect. I also really enjoy that he scribbles out the adult language instead of using special characters. It is a nice touch.
All in all, I could not have more mixed feeling about Imperium #16. While Joshua and his team made one of the best single issues of the better part of a decade, I am heartbroken to see it go. I have not a single bit of criticism for this book. Joshua’s script, as always, was thought provoking; Khari and Ulises’ art was emotionally driven; and Dave’s letters pulled the rest of it together. It has been a hell of a run for Imperium. I suggest that everyone go buy all 16 issues because I truly believe it should be up there with The Saga of Swamp Thing, Strangers in Paradise, and Sandman. This issue easily earns 6 out of 5 stars, even though the site will only let me display 5.
Oh, and if anyone cares to know, I nearly cheered outloud on my bus ride to work when Sunlight on Snow revealed the plot twist to Amanda. As a full Foundation supporter, for once it was nice to see the good guys finally get ahead in this series. Although, Joshua’s question to whether the means ever justifies the end still makes me question my loyalty. Anyways, thank you Valiant for another great run; and thank you Joshua for letting us peer into your mind, I hope all goes well in Africa, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Fin.
Written by JOSHUA DYSART
Art by KHARI EVANS
Cover A by CLAYTON HENRY (MAR161836)
Cover B by DIEGO BERNARD (MAR161837)
Variant Cover by ZACH MONTOYA (MAR161838)