By Joshua Dysart, CAFU, and Brian Reber
Imperium could easily be renamed “Impact” – a title that works both on the story level and speaks to its effect upon readers.
Imperium #9 marks the beginning of “The Vine Imperative” story arc. Entitled “Chapter One: The Last Extremist”. This book serves as an entry point to the series. Established readers who are turned off by the idea of “jumping on” points will not be disappointed. It quickly summarizes major plotlines in one page with the remainder of the book steadily advancing the storyline.
And what a storyline it is. Politics. Ethics. Religion. Speciesism. Power and responsibility. Dysart addresses and interweaves these concepts light-handedly through the telling of the main storyline. As is his style, Dysart’s nuanced characters embody some of these traits while others struggle against them. The effect of this is a story that feels real despite its science fiction undertones. This is a story with impact, and it feels relevant to the world we live in today.
Fresh off the heels of its Divinity encounter, Imperium continues to draw in aspects of the larger Valiant Universe while building its own unique story. This arc exposes the tenuous relationship between Harada and the Vine plantings who have long operated on earth. Readers are treated to new Vine information and characters. Since this is a spoiler-free review, it must suffice to say that how Harada turns himself into a target for the Vine is revealing of his character, yet understandable from a strategic point of view. Additionally, Harada’s actions in regards to a team member further tip the character’s ethics scale. For every redeeming point, there is yet another that is damning.
There is high action and some truly disturbing moments in the book, not all of which occur during violent assaults. The book closes with a tantalizing plot prospect and is sure to hook readers, new and old alike.
Artistically, the book is gorgeous. CAFU’s artwork is stunning as usual. Each panel flows into the next, drawing the eye naturally and carrying the story along. Clean lines and attention to details are hallmarks of CAFU’s style, as are his characters’ highly expressive eyes. Whether it be a crowd shot or a close-up, his characters’ state of mind are clearly defined in their expressions. Colorist Brian Reber does a beautiful job, giving the art texture and depth. With environs ranging from the Congo to Saudi Arabia to alien mindscapes, there was much diversity in setting, but Reber brought it all together realistically and made the book feel unified. Also notable is his attention to detail, such as the way the light hits temples and cheekbones, to the shadows and changes in tone that occur within the folds of fabric.
“In these uncertain times, it’s important to know who your friends are.” That’s the commercial slogan of a certain dubious entity in Imperium. It also speaks to the delicate position of several characters in the story, possibly foreshadowing upcoming events. Imperium #9 is a master chess game and should be on your must-read list.