ADVANCE REVIEW: Imperium #14



Cover by Juan Jose Ryp

Imperium #14

“Stormbreak, Level Two: Transformative Knowledge”

Writer Joshua Dysart

Artist Khari Evans

Colorist Ulises Arreola

Valiant’s big release this week is going to be the Archer and Armstrong relaunch, A&A. But readers would be making a mistake overlooking the latest issue of Imperium, Valiant’s book about a complicated villain and the protege who betrayed him.

Last issue, Livewire and the H.A.R.D. Corps tracked psychic supervillain Toyo Harada to a booby-trapped satellite in orbit. In this issue, she puts the whole team in danger to make a daring escape, then helps H.A.R.D. Corps strategize an attack on a shipment of technology Harada needs. Because of some complicated geopolitical issues, the team has to be secretive in their mission, and their small size almost gets the better of them when they face yet another trap. Springing this one, however, finally pits H.A.R.D. Corps leader Palmer against the team’s defector, Gravedog.

Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli

Imperium in general, and this arc in particular, continues to pay off the emotional investment Valiant readers have had in characters like Livewire and Toyo Harada from Joshua Dysart’s Harbinger series and Christos’s Gage work with H.A.R.D. Corps in his run on Bloodshot. In the Valiant Universe, these team books have rich with the psychological depth you find in celebrated X-Men teams, only with a fraction of the continuity entanglement. Readers who have read the last twelve months of a few key titles are going to gasp when they see how far Livewire is willing to go to defeat her former mentor – we know how much she loves and respects him, but we also know how ashamed she is of missing his villainous intentions.  In a brief interlude into Harada’s own thoughts, readers see his “doubts and failures,” including the loss of this woman he now says he considered a daughter. She has often been written with a realistic difficulty with social cues and relationships, and readers can’t predict if her dangerous resistance to following Palmer’s chain of command is willful or the result of her relative comfort with technological over personal interfaces. Contrasting her vantage point as a rebellious protege, Palmer is mourning and angry about Gravedog’s betrayal. Gravedog, however, sees the good work Harada is doing for people even if he eventually wants to rule them, and he loves being on the new team. This book is not going to rest on simplicity – some rebels are good, some are bad, but they see themselves the same, and the answer won’t be clear until the book is done. Imperium is one of the most psychologically challenging books Valiant has ever put out, and it’s only halfway through this arc.

Cover by Cafu

More from Bam Smack Pow

Imperium #14 goes on sale Wednesday, March 16, from Valiant Entertainment.