Imperium #1 arrived February 4, ushering in the next phase of the psiot story in the Valiant universe. Focusing on the activities of antihero Toyo Harada, a powerful psiot whose goals seem altruistic but whose means are barbaric, writer Joshua Dysart does not shy away from politics and religious issues. He gives readers both an entertaining read involving futuristic utopia and present day warfare as well as more thought-provoking material such as racism, dominion, and free will.

Those that have read #1 are aware that Harada is building a new house of cards, and its foundation is based on a lie. Despite being one of the world’s most powerful psiots, even Harada needs help to achieve his aims. The team he relies on for muscle and machination are psiots. He needs their abilities and demands their allegiance. Harada uses his powers to dominate their thoughts and enforce his will – a handy tool in times of warfare. He also projects his own vision of what the future will be, giving each team member a unique taste of their own successful future and deep-seeded wish fulfillment. This vision is what Harada uses to motivate them to face the atrocities they will have to commit in service to his vision. As if the manipulation and control aren’t bad enough, Harada takes it a step further, claiming that the Bleeding Monk, a respected prophetic psiot, declared him to be the person who will bring about this illustrious future. In reality, the opposite is true. The Bleeding Monk admonished him to leave the world stage, that his work was finished. To an ego-maniac and control-freak such as Harada, this is unacceptable.

With most of the non-psiot world allied against him, Harada needs more help than what his small army of psiots can provide. Enter Major Mech, a self-aware A.I. medbot whom Harada manages to control. Major Mech is a key component of the success of Harada’s first battle as he is unaffected by the anti-psiot dampener and able to destroy it. He also serves as an impartial witness to the proceedings. Having been excluded from Harada’s motivating vision of the future, Major Mech, or Sunlight on Snow (SOS) as he prefers to be called, proves to be more humane than the humans. SOS bemoans the need to kill at all and condemns a team member for his callous and arbitrary slaughter. SOS also took offense at the speciesism and racism implied by Stronghold’s comment. Admonished by Harada to know his “place and purpose”, SOS states somewhat ominously that he understands all too well. Then he definitely repeats that he is to be called by his chosen name. As we fade to black, the last panel shows him gently carrying the body of an ally soldier killed indiscriminately by Stronghold.

Keep an eye on Sunlight on Snow. A unique instance of a robot gaining its own “spark”, his ethics may prove to be an impediment to Harada’s play for power. He is rooted in the here and now, judging actions as they pertain to the present, whereas Harada’s psiots are focused on the future, their concern being on the final outcome rather than the morality of their current actions.

It will be interesting to see how an entity with a black and white view of ethics will be able to work alongside those who are operating in the gray. Although the prospect of sentient robots can be frightening, I am hoping that Sunlight on Snow will be able to gain his independence from Harada.

Imperium means sovereignty of state over individual, or in looser terms, to command. It’s a perfect title for a series that will examine one man’s attempted rise to power. The story told will be of the changing world, but it will also be a discourse on man’s hubris and the gray area of the end justifying the means.

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