When Valiant releases a new series, you can't help but become interested. And when that series is about Toyo Harada and the creative team is Joshua Dysart and Doug Braithwaite, you can't help but get excited and feel pretty confident that it'll be awesome. Thankfully, that's exactly what IMPERIUM #1 is: awesome.
This world may be full of characters with crazy powers, humans with impressive technology to combat them, and even big robots, but Dysart makes sure the book leaves an impression because of character. No matter how surreal things get, he's able to give them natural dialogue and make you connect with these individuals. When you think of a character, it may not be their power that comes to mind first; it may be their personality. Toyo Harada's an excellent lead and the writer proves that in a very creative way. Unfortunately, the preview spoils the twist, so don't read that if you don't want the moment taken away from you. So, without spoiling anything, I'll just say Dysart gives us a more than proper understanding of how Toyo's mind works and what he's willing to do to accomplish what he wants. Can peace really be accomplished through force? Can you defy destiny? How many lives can you afford to lose while attempting to serve the greater good?
Giving us a better insight into the character through someone else's experience was a brilliant way to give us organic exposition and teach us everything we need to know about Harada's mission while also getting to know another individual better. There's a great sense of buildup as we're shown a world that feels too good to be true and we're left wondering what the catch is. When Dysart hits us with the catch, it's definitely felt. After something like that that, who wouldn't be motivated to fight for his cause? But do they feel they can trust him? Toyo's obviously a villain, but this publisher is doing an amazing job making him a complex one. He's a character I want to read about and he absolutely has what it takes to be the focal point.
This is an issue that begins in a gorgeous, bright and peaceful setting and then concludes in a gritty, bloody, war-torn and dark setting. First, there's love, joy and a sense of serenity. Then, there's hate, rage and violence. We see the best of humanity and how we have the potential to do great things and care for one another, and then we see just how ugly humanity can be as it tears itself apart. Obviously, the art team really needs to sell the drastic change in tone and Braithwaite, Brian Reber, and Dave McCraig most certainly did. While the opening is full of relaxing shades of blue and green, the second half focuses on darker shades and heavier shadowing to really emphasize just how brutal and emotionally damaging the scene has become. The character work is equally strong and the last panel leaves me really wanting to see more of one of Toyo's allies. Dysart's script is incredible, but writing is only half the battle with comics. A brilliant script can be hindered be sloppy or rushed artwork. Thankfully, the pencils and colors do the script justice and angles/layouts are used to effectively pull us into each scene and these panels allow us to fully appreciate what's going on.
No major criticisms. Seriously, I've read it twice and I still have no noteworthy gripes. One small bit of advice: if you haven't read HARBINGER #0, make sure you do that at some point. It'll definitely help you appreciate Toyo's story more.
IMPERIUM #1 is smart and entertaining, gorgeous yet gruesome, and character-driven yet large in scope. Thanks to a strong creative team, it's an issue that'll appeal to you on many levels and leaves you wondering when you'll be able to read the next issue. Toyo Harada's a compelling character and this is proof of that. New readers may still be asking a lot of questions about the supporting cast, but I'm sure they'll be addressed in due time. For now, this was a phenomenal opening that told us everything we need to know about Harada while also getting a better understanding of just how far he'll go to get what he wants. I know many of you already go beyond your budget with weekly comics, but this is more than worthy of your $3.99, people.