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Imperium 14

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Joshua Dysart, Khari Evans, Ulises Arreola

Make way for mayhem (and a terrifying child).

Imperium #14 is another outstanding chapter in this psychological thriller. Full of action and risk, this book manages to add even more depth to its roster of complex characters while forwarding the plot surrounding the ambitious Toyo Harada.

This issue features one of the most anticipated confrontations since Peter Stanchek faced down Toyo Harada. As an alpha-level psiot, there are few who can could stand against a full psionic attack by Harada, but some have been successful in outmaneuvering him. This time out, it’s Livewire and the H.A.R.D. Corps team.

In the previous issue, it was revealed that Harada had discovered the team in space and rushed off to destroy them. Livewire’s psionic abilities are powerful, but what makes her truly Harada’s match is her ingenuity.  She understands his psionic AND human weaknesses, which she finesses to her advantage. Fall of Ninjak readers probably have long suspected the reason for Livewire’s particular circumstances in that book; here we find acknowledgment for it. It’s that reasoning that makes this confrontation all the more dynamic.

Dysart balances the action with knowledge, giving readers insight into the current conditions of the Foundation Zone. We’re given a rare look inside Harada’s head, making us privy to some shocking reveals about his post-scarcity plan and what it will take to make it successful.

The battle and the fallout alone would have made for a satisfying story, but Dysart is just getting started. He uses the momentum from the first challenge to launch the team of “Harada Hunters” onto their next objective. Dysart has plenty of surprises in store for the team and the readers.

Imperium #14 has a large cast of characters composed of members of Harada’s team as well as Livewire and H.A.R.D. Corps. It is well-executed, with the primary focus being on Harada, Livewire, and Charlie Palmer. The other characters are tertiary, yet their actions are still consequential. The book can be described as a chess game, but there’s also a domino effect. It makes for great reading.

One thing is clear: though she may be on the team, Livewire is no longer a team player. She’s used to calling the shots, and when it comes to matters such as these, has greater insight than Palmer. He begrudgingly recognizes this, as well as the idea that she is a danger to them. While Harada might be billed as top dog, a more volatile battle of wills and genius would occur between the independent Livewire and the Angela Vessel, Harada’s science tech.

Khari Evans continues his run as artist for this arc. Fans of his earlier Harbinger work will undoubtedly enjoy seeing these characters depicted as they were when first introduced to readers. His distinctive characterizations add perniciousness to youth and depth and cragginess to the aged. Evans keeps the panels flowing smoothly, allowing readers to follow naturally without disrupting the flow. He works digitally and on occasion uses actual photographs in the background. Such is the case this time out with helicopters and ocean. These instances are unobtrusive, however, as they are blended to match the scene.

Part of the reason that the photos blend so well with the drawings is due to the talents of colorist Ulises Arreola. He uses a mostly natural palette, employing shades and tones to give a realistic depth of color to background objects while keeping the focus subjects simpler. Arreola makes the plethora of scenic views and long shots in this issue breathtaking.

Imperium continues to be one of Valiant’s most sophisticated books in terms of plot and character development. It challenges readers to think outside the box without the entanglement of a convoluted continuity. New readers can jump aboard the series with relative ease while established fans will enjoy the depth of development. This issue aggressively pursues plot while still providing rich character insight, making this one of the strongest issues yet. If you haven’t yet tried out Imperium, this is the arc to do it in.

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