Writer: Joshua Dysart
Artist: Doug Braithwaite
Colors: Dave McCaig
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Raul Allen
I think one advantage that Imperium has over its previous incarnation, Harbinger, is that it did not need as much time to establish its world and the central concept. It assumes that the reader is on board with the concept and allows the recap from the first issue and here to bring people up to speed. We know what Psiots are and we’ve been given a look at the would-be savior of the world. Now, Dysart, Braithwaite and co. brings the focus to one of the new characters to enter the War.
The main covers for the first three issues of Imperium follow a theme (all by Raul Allen). Where issue #1 depicted Harada, this one depicts the central focus of this issue, a new character named Gravedog. While this cover doesn’t give as much on the character as the cover for issue #1 did, it’s still a great cover.
I wanted to talk about the art here in this page for a moment. Combining live photographs with pencils in comics has always been something interesting to me. Unless I am mistaking, panel one here is a photo of the U.N.’s Security Council chamber that has been blurred while the rest of the panels are pencils and colors. Let me just start by saying that I think the page looks really good. Braithwaite and McCaig do a good job on establishing this scene, but I’ve just never known where I stand on that kind of mixed media on a comic page.
A recurring theme in Dysart’s works centering on war is the concept of child soldiers and the loss of childhood innocence. It was prevalent in Unknown Soldier and it was seen in Harbinger with the introduction of the Generation Zero kids. It really does bring up a chilling contrast seeing Darpan act like this when just in Habringer his biggest care in the world seemed to be his toy Winnebago.
Okay, newcomers to Valiant. Let me answer the questions you may have since they’re probably the same ones I had:
- Yes, their squad name is literally pronounced as “Hardcore”.
- Yes, Valiant did get their start in the nineties.
- Yes, the Rising Spirit tech can be a bit rubbish.
My (very) cheap glibs aside, I always did like the design of the H.A.R.D. Corps uniforms. Very sleek and simplified.
“I said I’m not interested in talking.” This may actually sum up a great deal of Gravedog’s personality. More on that, later.
Last issue not only gave us an overview of Harada as a character, but also of those under his command and his side of the war. This issue looks at the war from the other side and discusses an all too familiar concept in superhero comics as it is in real life: escalation. People constantly having to one up each other with bigger, better, faster, stronger equipment. By the end of Harbinger, Project Rising Spirit was… let’s face it… a bit of a joke. Then Harada had to go and declare war on everyone and now they have more money and equipment than ever before. It just raises the question: Is everything Harada is trying to achieve just going to lead to more destruction?
Also, nice to see Ingrid again. At the end of Harbinger, she and Stronghold decided to conspire to act as Harada’s “choke chain” against the world. Here’s hoping for more.
Here’s the thing about the Valiant Universe: It’s not like Marvel or DC. Oh sure, there are a great deal of elements similar. But the Valiant Universe has always been a bit more grounded (For the most part. There is a super-powered goat running around.) The exchange between Gravedog and Pig Killer shows this. This isn’t the world where someone like Pig Killer could save the world with idealism. Plus, Pig Killer is a terrible name for a superhero! “Tune in next week, true believers, for the continuing adventures of the Amazing Pig Killer!” See? The children would cry!
Here’s where we get our real in depth look into Pig Killer a.k.a. Borz Umarov. The “green headband” alluded to here were those worn by the Smertniks– death warriors in the Chechen Wars during the nineties. Combine that with Umarov being born into this life, we see that theme of shattered innocence at young ages popping up again, this time on the side “against” Harada.
And geeze, do I hate Kozol! Like seriously, whenever this guy is on page, you think, maybe Harada has a bit of a point.
“Why is it so important to believe in something?” This is another interesting insight into Gravedog’s psyche. Kozol automatically assumed that Gravedog was some religious fanatic that only became a H.A.R.D. Corps member as an alternative to Guantanamo Bay, but this sentence shows that such motivations were lost to this broken man a long time ago.
Nothing like subterfuge to gauge interest and continue the theme of trust and lies from the previous issue. Also, nice to Rachel back from the very first arc of Harbinger.
We now come to a major change in the conflict. Harada’s Psiot soldiers vs. Project Rising Spirits (sorta kinda) Psiot soldiers. This just drives the further point of escalation and does not bode will for the future of this world.
Oh no! Mech Ma…erm, Sunlight on Shadow!
This really does go to highlight some of the inherent weaknesses that H.A.R.D. Corps, who are basically cheap imitations of true Psiots, have. They have to rely on their handlers in command station miles away and if that connection is severed…well…this happens.
I must say, bravo to Braithwaite and McCaig for not trying to go soft with the gory detail on this final page. Really highlights what is at stake and what the cost of this war will bring.
As I said in the beginning, a benefit Imperium has over Harbinger is that it doesn’t have nearly as many concepts that it has to establish in its opening volley. As much as I liked Harbinger’s opening arc, a lot of it dealt with building a world. But here, Dysart, Braithwaite, McCaig and Sharpe can slow the pace down a bit and really dig into these characters. And Gravedog is an interesting new addition to this world. It goes to show that even people from some of the darkest of backgrounds are people as well.