By Joshua Dysart, CAFU, Juan Jose Ryp, and Ulises Arreola
Smart and topical as always, Joshua Dysart’s Imperium #11 ups the ante, giving readers plenty of cerebral thrills and action adventure. Prepare yourself, this strategic chess game just dissolved into a dodge-ball battle as the hostilities between the Vine plantings and Harada explodes into mayhem.
Imperium #11 is the latest chapter in the “Vine Imperative” arc, an ambitious storyline that spans more than forty years. Valiant describes their shared universe as “the world outside your window” and never is this more apparent than in the machinations of Imperium, whose political intrigue and human rights issues mirror our own. If you’re considering picking up Imperium, don’t let the serious tone deter you. This book is well-balanced, providing plenty of entertainment and “wow” moments. Science fiction, super powers, and social commentary combine to make this book both brainy and fun.
Part of the appeal of Imperium is its break away from the simplistic hero storyline. Imperium is morally complicated. There is an ambiguity to the characters with no clear heroes or villains. Dysart does a great job of implying how perspective shapes our view of events. Readers are faced with the question of whether the end justifies the means. The ongoing conflict between Toyo Harada and the Vine plantings is a perfect example of how both perspective and ambiguity play off each other. Each party sees themselves as the savior of humanity and their opposition as a dangerous threat that needs to be excised. Both groups have benefited mankind and both have committed terrible acts in the process of serving the larger picture. Noticeably absent is the notion of compromise. This feels purposeful on Dysart’s part. Each faction is unyielding in the pursuit of their goals and in their abhorrence for the other party. Compromise by either would seem, to them at least, as a personal failure. Again, this strident polarization hits home all too close.
Dysart weaves dual time periods throughout the narrative, using the past as a foundation for current events and as a way to illustrate that the past frequently repeats itself. This supports the story and propels it into new territory. The shifting timeline is never confusing. The time periods ebb and flow naturally as part of the telling of the story and are visually defined by using a different artist for the divergent periods.
The tension builds with each page, and readers can feel the volatility of the characters just under the surface, itching to be loosed. When it finally happens, it’s even more horrible and glorious than expected. Reading this was just plain fun. While there is violence and a certain level of horror at the atrocity exhibition, there’s also humor. Readers may find themselves chuckling at the level of snark that a most uncharming character shows he is capable of. It’s strangely satisfying. The cliffhanger ending will leave you begging for more as the story prepares to rocket into the final chapter of the Vine Imperative arc.
CAFU and Juan Jose Ryp share artistic duties, with CAFU illustrating the present day and Ryp handling the 1968 portions of the story. This works effectively. Both are talented artists and their styles are complementary. The shifts in time, key to the story, are easily discernible but never jarring. Both artists create expressive characters that can be considered physical “actors”. The facial expressions are given special treatment, emoting just as much as a live actor. Colorist Ulises Arreola unifies both timelines and provides continuity. There is texture and an almost mottled effect to the coloring that fits the ambiguity of the story and adds a sense of realism. This is a good looking book.
Imperium #11 is a thrill ride that keeps accelerating – and it hasn’t come to a stop yet. Ending on a cliff-hanger, this exciting read hits shelves on 12-16-2015. Pick it up and read it first.