Review Brew: Imperium #5
Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artists: Scot Eaton & Livesay
Poor Valiant. In an industry dominated by All-New Marvels and New 52s, the smaller-press publishers continue to…exist. There’s nothing wrong with their product, but it’s hard to articulate what makes it stand out when Secret Wars is tearing up the summer and DC is hitting another semi-reboot status this week. The result is a product like Imperium, which is an acceptable product but doesn’t really stand out against everything else on the market. (Unsurprisingly, it was #287 on Diamond’s Top 300 for April.)
To its credit, Imperium #5 is as good a jumping-point as any for the virgin reader. Billed as the beginning of a new story arc, the recap page quickly orients us to the story. A spinoff of Valiant’s Harbinger, Imperium brings us in the middle of a war between the soldiers of the H.A.R.D. Corps (sorry, the 90s taught us that names like “H.A.R.D. Corps” just aren’t all that cool) against global tyrant Toyo Harada and his team of psionic/alien underlings. Prior to this issue, Harada brought about world peace through manipulation and assassinations, until a team of rebels exposed him. This latest issue opens with the H.A.R.D. Corps on the run from Harada’s forces, hiding under the oceans in an attempt to conceal themselves from Harada’s psychic powers and their unlimited reach.
This Authority-meets-Squadron-Supreme plotline might make for compelling reading, but its execution leaves something to be desired. Although we’re apparently supposed to be rooting for the H.A.R.D. Corps, its only distinguishable character is its leader/C.E.O. Morris Kozol, who spends most of the issue complaining that his subordinates are incompetent and being paranoid that Harada is about to find him. The majority of his team is a group of indistinguishable lackeys who remain too undeveloped to generate any interest. Writer Joshua Dysart devotes a little more character development to Harada and his team of villains, but not enough development that they can escape being one-dimensionally evil. (There’s a pacifist robot who’s been enslaved by Harada that at least shows some potential.)
Certainly, Marvel and DC shouldn’t have a monopoly on the superhero/sci-fi market. It’s a big industry with room for a lot of concepts, so I’d encourage readers who are over-saturated with event after event but want to stay within the genre to look to other publishers. It’s just that this particular offering from Valiant reads like an average 90s book that you’d find in a clearance sale dollar bin today. It’s acceptable, but not the standout alternative you’re looking for.
Rating: Two out of five brains.
by Adam Frey