by Joshua Dysart, Doug Braithwaite,

The long awaited return of Toyo Harada is finally here as we delve deep with our full review of Imperium #1.

After the end of the Harbinger ongoing series, many fans were disappointed that one of Valiant’s most character-driven books had come to an end. If you were one of those fans, you have nothing to worry about, as Joshua Dysart has created in Imperium not only a worthy successor to that book, but a book that is sure to change the status quo of the Valiant universe for years to come.

The story opens up with a tale of the world 112 years into the future, with Darpan as the lead of the story. For those of you unfamiliar with the character, Darpan is an extremely powerful psiot, able to bring your worst memories and greatest fears to life. One of only a handful of naturally activated psiots in the Harbinger mythos, Darpan has always been one of Toyo Harada’s most faithful followers as it was he who rescued Darpan from the slums of Mumbai and helped him develop his potential. The world of the future is peaceful and beautiful – the world is at peace, food is plentiful, and psiots are on the front lines of humanity’s evolution.

As it turns out though, that future hasn’t yet arrived, but is being projected into Harada’s elite psiot unit as they prepare to attack a Syrian stronghold holding psiot dampener technology. If you’re familiar with the Harbinger series, and as is implied by a very telling panel in this issue, Toyo Harada has used the prophecies of the Bleeding Monk, an immortal seer, to steer the direction of the world in order to make it a better place – at least in his mind. Towards the end of that book, the Bleeding Monk told Harada that he was to leave the world scene as he would no longer guide humanity’s future – a prophecy which Harada refused to believe and which has set up the events which lead to Imperium #1.

Joshua Dysart is a character-first writer and if you’ve never read his previous work, it should be obvious from this debut issue. Each character has such interesting and troubled pasts which guide their beliefs and actions every single day. What makes the book so interesting is that it could easily be labeled a “villain” book, but once you begin peeling the layers it becomes so much more than that. The lines between hero and villain are easily blurred here and Darpan’s story shows us that these people truly believe that they are building a better future for the rest of humanity – regardless of what actions they may have to take to make that future a reality.

Interestingly, we saw very little of Harada himself and I fear that some readers may wonder how the central character of a book could have so little to do with it. Remember that this is just a first issue, and Dysart always writes stories that develop slowly over time with a very large pay off. Also important to remember is that Harada should be seen as a sort of guiding light for the events contained in the book and probably not meant to be the star of it himself. There is a page as the psiots are fighting Syrian rebels where Harada is flying in the middle of the page, controlling the action and showing us his power, with a halo flying above his head. The messiah metaphor is not one that is to be taken lightly considering Harada’s ultimate goal, and it’s one I eagerly look to explore as the series develops.

I cannot say enough about the level of the writing and story in Imperium #1. Dysart does a nice job introducing the characters to new readers, but this may not be as new reader friendly as the rest of Valiant’s number ones. This is a book that is very deep in so many levels, but one that requires thought and definitely more than a single read. If you’re looking for a book with plenty of action, emotion, and character exploration, Imperium is the book you’ll want to pick up every month. It is simply terrific.

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comments (1)

  • Great first issue and I think Harada is the most interesting character that Valiant has at their disposal. I think you are right in that it’s not as new reader friendly as most first issues but I think if you read Harbinger #0 you should be good to go.

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