By Joshua Dysart, Khari Evans, Victor Olazaba, Ulises Arreola
Imperium #16 is superb. It’s the rare book that not only engages its audience, but moves them as well. Imperium #16 is that book.
Expect to hear the sounds of explosions this Wednesday when Imperium #16 hits the shelves because fans’ minds will be overloaded and blown sky-high. Imperium has been building up the tension for some time, and it bursts wide open in “Stormbreak Level 4: All Love Lost.” Aggressive action is matched by a ferocious soul-baring confrontation, and the fallout is terrible.
This is the final chapter of the “Stormbreak” arc, and by all appearances, may be the final chapter in the Imperium storyline for the near future. Imperium is notably absent from Valiant solicitations through August. That is not to say that Toyo Harada’s story is finished, but the focus will likely shift from him and back onto the original Harbinger characters in the upcoming Harbinger Renegades series.
Regardless of final fate of the series, Dysart gives fans a sense of closure with this arc. The writing that’s been on the wall is finally coming to fruition. Imperium is a story about a powerful man and his quest to save the world by whatever means necessary. Dysart has been careful to never make judgments in his text, letting the reader form their own opinion on Harada’s activities. This time is different. The horrifying behavior of Harada’s team, his callousness in regards to life, the way in which he has exploited fellow psiots (scary children alert), and even his inability to accept criticism are clearly statements about Harada’s character. Condemning his actions this time out is not just financially motivated world governments and private corporations, but those closest to him. Just who does the condemning, and the way in which they rebel, is one of the best parts of the book.
The story picks up at the end of the devastating battle between the H.A.R.D. Corps Apex team and Harada’s team of “monsters.” There’s a brief moment of calm and reflection right before the climactic battle of wills between Livewire and Harada. This is the moment fans have been waiting for, and Dysart does not disappoint. Livewire makes a surprising discovery and reveals her true intentions while Harada reveals his true self. Meanwhile, there are battlefronts at the site of the space elevator and at sea with the rest of the convoy facing down a blockade. The line has been drawn and tensions are seething out, compelling readers through the book. It’s exciting, shocking, and sad. In short, it’s damn fine reading.
Khari Evans illustrates the book in his signature style, easily recognizable by his facial depictions. He has done a phenomenal job of making the characters act and fit the emotions of the piece. For instance, a scene in which an enraged Harada is floating depicts his body as clenched and as distorted as his emotions are. Subtleties like this make an impact on the reader’s experience. Every panel was on cue emotionally, and Evans never loses the reader. With the story taking place in simultaneously in multiple locations, there were definite challenges to illustrate the shifts and keep them cohesive without confusing the reader. Evans and team succeeded. Some panels employ photo manipulation in the background. This gives the boats and water great detail but may distract some readers. The coloring, however, helps these to blend in with the panel overall.
Inking was done by Victor Olazaba. He uses a wide range of strokes and keeps his hand light, especially on finer details such as Livewire’s coils of hair. His work complements Evans’ well, making it hard to discern between the two. Colorist Ulises Arreola sets the mood of the story, employing a palette that, while not always natural, matches the emotions of the characters. The unexpected use of color in some instances, such as the red colors of the ocean, is striking and befits the turbulence of the story. In other places, the golden glow of psiot power can almost be felt. Overall, it’s a lovely effect.
The battle may be over, but Harada’s story is not. Dysart has also seeded future stories within this ending. Do not miss this outstanding book. This story will have lasting ramifications on the Valiant Universe and in the hearts of readers.