ADVANCE REVIEW: Imperium #13


Imperium #13

“Stormbreak, part one: World Without Secrets”

Written by Joshua Dysart

Art by Khari Evans

Valiant Entertainment

For twelve issues, Imperium has been about superpowered psychic Toyo Harada and the monsters he’s selected to support his rise to world domination. He’s been a complicated antagonist since his introduction in Harbinger, and Imperium has shown that he’s more interesting when he’s winning. But this issue gives the man a couple of pages and shifts focus to one of his greatest losses, the hero he named Livewire.

Livewire was a standout supporting character, Harada’s pupil who betrayed him and now holds her own on the Unity team (Valiant’s answer to the Avengers). In this issue, she uses her political clout earned on that high-profile supergroup to root out some of Harada’s resources in India, then works her psiot powers of communication with technology to trace him to a satellite orbiting the planet. When the H.A.R.D. Corps give her a ride to outer space, they find a horrifying trap, employing an almost-casual body horror Cronenberg would approve. This issue was a tense escalation as a beloved character follows the clues to a showdown with a man who defeated God six issues ago, and readers are going to love it. But there’s another reason we should be talking about this issue.

People have noticed Faith as an example of body diversity in this company’s line, but Valiant has also been spending the last four years making the most complicated Black female hero since Storm. She’s a good teammate and a good leader, but she can miss social cues, and her writers don’t apologize for that. She’s got a technology-based skill, and when we compare this to the more primal powers of Marvel’s Storm and Luke Cage or DC’s Vixen, I think we see a significant challenge to the way minority characters are often represented in comics as more “savage” than their white counterparts. To make this point that much more plain, in a flashback, Harada begins her training by saying, “I know that the first time you saw a computer you weren’t allowed to touch it because you were poor, black, and a girl.” This is a character who has crossed through titles like Harbinger, X-O Manowar, Unity, Armor Hunters, and now Imperium, and Valiant is obviously invested in keeping her around – they established in continuity that she is in many ways better at being X-O Manowar than the man with the job now. In a month where Beyonce’s latest video challenged the national discussion of race in the arts, Valiant can be proud of the work they’ve been doing since the May 2012 relaunch.

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Imperium 13 comes out Wednesday, February 17, from Valiant Entertainment.