What does it take to build a utopia? Is the price worth it? These are just some of the questions Joshua Dysart, Doug Braithwaite, Brian Reber and Dave McCaig are asking in Imperium. We have a different question. Is it good?
Imperium #1 (Valiant Entertainment)
Writer Joshua Dysart and artist Doug Braithwaite open the book with a comparison. The opening page is a memory of the past, what the world was like: extreme poverty. On the next page they perform a good transition through an internal monologue showing what the world is now: utopian with giant skyscrapers overflowing and vegetation surrounding.
Braithwaite dreams up a beautiful utopia, with sleek architecture, many of the buildings have sweeping edifices. There are blimp-like sky ships soaring through the sky and trains running through, above, and under the water. Once you get underwater, civilization continues with globe and oval-shaped pods housing more vegetation. There is one panel displaying hexagonal sections depicting food and energy harvest communities. The most unique factor, the hexagonal patches of land, are floating in the middle of the ocean. Brian Reber and Dave McCaig team up to bring the world to life using lots of blues and greens giving the world a natural and bountiful vibe. Everything is idyllic and healthy.
Dysart’s internal monologue of Darpan-Sama drives the plot. His journey mirrors the reader exploring the world for the first time. After the discovery and description of what utopia looks like, Dysart and Braithwaite explore what it is on a human emotional level. The scene they choose is one of pain, but also pure elation and joy. It shows how the psiots, super-powered humans who dedicate themselves to a life of service, embody the principle of service. To this end, they are respected and almost worshipped.
The book takes a twist halfway through. Toyo Harada, Darpan Sama’s mentor and leader of the psiots, is finally introduced. The man is harsh, uncompromising, ambitious and deceptive, a lethal and deadly combination. He gives a long motivational speech preparing his troops for battle and the ugliness of what is to come. The speech, fit for a general, is capped off with some comedic humor involving a large golden metallic robot who calls himself Sunlight on Snow.
Sunlight on Snow is the character Dysart embodies with the human emotion of compassion. Despite being a robot, he questions the tactics Harada and his psiots are taking even going so far as to physically defend the innocent or in Harada’s case, collateral damage.
Braithwaite’s action sequences are grounded. The camera angles are low and usually looking up as if there is a war photographer amidst the action. He does struggle with bullet wounds. There is one panel where a terrorist is literally lit up; the light erupts from all over his body as if the victim is on the verge of an explosion. He transitions from normal rectangular panels in the first half of the book to slanted panels with jagged edges creating more tension and a sense of action.
Lastly, Dave Sharpe’s letters are well done. He uses a faded red bubble to encapsulate Darpan Sama’s thoughts. He uses the same font when humans are speaking, but Sunlight on Snow has his own more rigid font. He makes it easily identifiable when different characters are speaking.
Is It Good?
The first half of Imperium #1 is beautiful to look at. The architecture is futuristic and the green and blue colors give the world a sense of peace and prosperity. Dysart and Braithwaite even seem to adapt Ludwig von Mises human action, giving Darpan Sama uneasiness as he remembers the place of his birth, a vision for a better state, and the belief one’s actions can lead to a better future. The book systematically adopts this theory. There are some drawbacks with the lighting of bullets. The book definitely grabs your interest providing political intrigue, dynamic characters, and questioning how far one will go to achieve utopia and in doing so can you really achieve utopia?