By Joshua Dysart, Khari Evans, Ulises Arreola
Imperium #13 is a terrific read. A political chess game incorporating sci-fi elements and a heavy dose of intrigue, readers are impelled through the storyline that resonates with current world concerns. This book marks the beginning of a new arc, “Stormbreak,” and focuses on the anti-Harada movement, led by his former protégé, Livewire.
Writer Joshua Dysart has hit his stride with Imperium, surpassing even his beloved Harbinger, the predecessor to this series. There is a level of sophistication and complexity at play not seen in the excellent Harbinger. Some of this can be attributed to the larger, more political storyline of this title. Harbinger focused on a small group of people, whereas Imperium tackles the worldwide effect of these individuals and their actions. Dysart portrays his characters as realistic, albeit super-powered persons. Flawed, sometimes heroic and other times evil. Interpretation is open to one’s viewpoint – just like in real life.
Dysart never panders to the lowest common denominator, instead giving readers an intelligent story with layers of interpretation. Readers can enjoy the overall plot without delving deeply into the moral and political questions raised in the narrative, but for those who enjoy reading and re-reading a series, there’s much to admire about Imperium. I enjoy the portrayal of subtle manipulation: in this book in particular, take note of how Harada appears to Livewire in similar circumstances during different time periods in her life. That’s vague to avoid spoilers, but this is a fine example of the artistry of Dysart.
The star of this book is Livewire, who we haven’t seen since Unity ended. Her goal is uncovering Harada’s secrets, but whether that is fully professional in nature remains to be seen. While we don’t learn any secrets that she obtains, we do learn plenty about her personal evolution and her new “toys”.
Dysart portrays Livewire with more confidence and arrogance than how she appeared in the Unity title. While that depiction of Livewire is enjoyable, making her more pragmatic works here. She’s not soft at all. If anything, you might like her less on a personal level but find her more believable in her role. The edge she has here is similar to her behavior in the first Harbinger arc, where the reader feels she believes she’s a bit above others. This story flashes back to her early years. Even as a child, Livewire believed that she was destined to be special, that other people were not unique. They were all predictable and followed the same programming. This mindset explains her admiration for Harada, whom she could not predict. He, too, saw the potential to change the world. The difference between them is what makes Livewire more relatable. While she does have some disdain for the masses, she still has a strong moral compass and compassion.
This book provided plenty of character development, and it was achieved without taking away from the plot. The story moves along quickly, and the plot advancements are significant. There’s some truly exciting moments along with some surprise appearances that will leave many fans pleased to the core.
Artist Khari Evans of Harbinger fame reunites with Dysart for this book. For many readers, Khari defined the look of the Harbinger characters, and seeing them once again through his eyes was a boon. Evans has a distinctive style, especially noticeable with facial features. Particularly enjoyable is his portrayal of the young Amanda. He captured that strange combination of youthful naivety and plucky self-confidence perfectly. The panels throughout flow nicely, and there are some nice segueways between time periods.
Colorist Ulises Arreola added warmth by using earthy browns and reds throughout the storyline, which grounds the story in reality. He opts for a range of colors to depict the surreal flow of information, and this lends a richness to the computer-centric life of Livewire. This is a nice change from the “Matrix-style” colors often seen to depict data. Overall, the art looked fantastic, and the panels led the reader easily through the pages.
Imperium #13 is building to a crescendo. It left us and Livewire on a high wire. I’m looking forward to seeing who will be the man who crashes to Earth.