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Mad, Mad Science: A Fan Annotation of Imperium #4

 

Writer: Joshua Dysart

 

Artist: Doug Braithwaite

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Colors: Brian Reber and Ulises Arreola

 

Letters: Dave Sharpe

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Another thirty-ish days past, and it brings us back to this book of killers, tyrants and madmen trying to make the world a better place, whether you like it or not. This month’s issue concludes the “Collecting Monsters” arc with a focus on the last member of Harada’s group of villains, Angela Peace Baingana. I’m perfectly sure a person with the middle name “Peace” will be a lovely, rationale and not totally alien person at all.

 

Yeah, none of you are buying this. Here’s the link to the issue, Spoilers, yadda yadda yadda.

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Cover

 

Rafael Albuquerque is one of my favorite artists in the medium. I know most of you know him for his work with Scott Snyder on American Vampire, but to me, he will always be the man who drew the original Jaime Reyes Blue Beetle series. Speaking of vampires though, his depiction of Harada looks like he is a straight out of American Vampire to the point I wonder if Skinner Sweet could take him on. Hmmm. I don’t tend to indulge in that “who vs who” type of conversation, but I am curious.

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Page One

 

The Leviathan has an interesting design as a covert command vessel. I will not lie though, I didn’t realize the angle of this shot was from the ocean floor looking at the ship’s underside. I thought at first the Leviathan looked like a giant robot.

 

Page Two

 

I have to compare this psiot, Center Point, with another group of psiots associated with Rising Spirit, Generation Zero. That group of kids… were abused, let’s face it. They went through traumas no one deserves at such a young age. That’s left them with barely a childhood to have been had. Counter to that, Center Point seems… well… not screwed up. I don’t know if he’s a H.A.R.D. Corps member (doubtful) or maybe after the Las Vegas incident, PRS went “Hey, in hindsight this whole ‘kidnap children and torture them to awaken latent psychic powers’ thing wasn’t a great idea”.

 

Pages Three-Four

 

All the praise to Braithwaite, Reber and Arreola for these pages. Creating an otherworldly dimension is always fun.

 

Pages Five-Seven

 

When this book was advertized, I could see it fitting into several genres. The superhero genre was a given. Political thriller? Totally. A meditation on power and its effects on the world and people? Sure. Cosmic Horror? Got to say, wasn’t expecting that. The eyes. The eyes. Once again, Braithwaite, Reber and Arreola are in absolute top form right now.

 

Also, now my comics are taunting me that I haven’t played Bloodborne yet.

 

Page Eight

 

The beginning of this issue introduced us to well-meaning scientist Angela Baingana. This page introduced us to the…thing…we’ve seen since issue #2. Also, we now have the explanation to Baingana’s lack of eyes. My nightmares appreciate this.

 

Pages Nine-Ten

 

Like how Harbinger took a look at a variety of heroic archetypes, Imperium takes a look at a variety of villain archetypes. In Angela’s case, the mad scientist. I love the mad scientist. It’s one of my favorite character archetypes. We also see the concept of a “quirky” scientist being played with since it’s literally an otherworldly being possessing a human to study us.

 

Also, anyone who insults Kozol is someone I immediately like. I don’t know what it is about Kozol that I can’t stand (which I’m sure it’s intentional). Maybe it’s just because he’s a sleazy guy after financial profit that makes him more despicable than killer robot, killer alien and the psychic dictator. Not sure what that says about me…

 

Page Eleven

 

Returning back to that previous theme of truth and lies, we see a flashback about how Gravedog “escaped” from Harada and got back to the Leviathan. Like the psychic dictator, like a writer, you can’t trust them. You can’t trust this.

 

Pages Twelve-Thirteen

 

See? Even Gravedog agrees with me on this one.

 

Further proving why I dislike Kozol. At least the thing in Angela has the benefit of being an alien creature that sees us as just curious things. And hell, at least the thing in Angela is considerate enough about Gravedog’s masochistic tendencies, in a really weird way.

 

Page Fourteen

 

Seriously, screw this guy.

 

I know I’m harping on Kozol. It’s just because I find him to be such a worm. Nice to know a good drink will get you back into the graces of the guy whose head you nearly had cut into. Again, just there really is no moralistically great side in this conflict.

 

Pages Fifteen-Sixteen

 

There aren’t going to be happy endings in this one. Everyone has an agenda or secret motivation within motivations.

 

Pages Seventeen-Eighteen

 

No, this is not going to be a reverse-gender version of the Walter Bishop and Astro Asterisk Astrid relationship at all. It’s like I said, there isn’t going to be happy endings with this, even for the nicest of people. Especially for the nicest of people.

 

Page Nineteen

 

Oh yeah, guess this is the sort of thing that happens when you let some alien thing wearing the body of your chief scientist do whatever they want. Also, once again, screw Kozol. Sorry, Center Point.

 

Page Twenty

 

And the truth comes out.

 

An interesting scene, these two powerful beings, Harada and this thing, wearing other people to communicate. It goes back to thoughts I’ve had in previous issues on how I can’t really think of Harada has fully human anymore.

 

Pages Twenty-One-Twenty-Two

 

It’s funny. The concept of “war” is a massive part in superhero and superbeing comics. The motivation behind this war, the most powerful and efficient energy source created, is a much more grounded than, say, superhero registration.

 

Final Thoughts on Issue and Arc

 

As I said in my very first Ken’s Comic Ramblings, I have grown severely disillusioned with certain franchises about a race of superpowered people. I found Harbinger a superiorly crafted book to X-Men and Imperium is how I would see a true “revolution” happening. It’s an incredibly ambitious book that is not trying to paint a good and evil side in this conflict. When I compare it to the first arc of Harbinger, I appreciate that it slowed down its pace and it isn’t as hand holding. It trusts you to understand such concepts as psiots and such and be willing to go along with it.

 

While the overall plot is incredibly slowed down, it is the characters that rule this arc. Taking its time to have a character as a relatively central focus in each issue was a massive benefit to get us to understand these “villains” and even sympathize with them (see: Sunlight on Snow). And at the center of it all, Harada. It takes a certain amount of talent to have a character be absent for a majority of an arc, but to feel that presence all throughout.

 

This is also the farewell to Doug Braitwaite on pencils. As he moves on to Book of Death and The Death of Bloodshot, it is a sad parting. I first saw his pencils in the Kieron Gillen written Journey Into Mystery and his work has only improved since then, able to convey from the quiet and stark (again, see: Sunlight on Snow) to the quite visceral and otherworldly that was in this issue. Dave McCaig set the color tone for this book and Brian Reber has made the book his own, choosing a much more somber tone to fit the events and themes of this book.

 

At the end, Imperium has quickly become my favorite book coming from Valiant and its running up to be one of my favorite books in the market. There are some minor flaws, but they are so few and far in between. If you have become as disillusioned with books such as X-Men as I have, I highly recommend you find it. The first trade paperback comes out in a bit over a month, collecting issues #1-4. Buy it and then read my annotations and agree/disagree/call me a blind fool all you wish.

 

See you in two or three weeks for when issue #5 comes down, the beginning of Broken Angels.

Trust Me, I'm a Superhero

About Kenneth

When he is not working at a library or on his Master's Degree, Ken Godberson III is usually writing comics, prose and screenplays. He tends to be an expert on absolutely nothing except on why Impulse is the greatest superhero ever. He can be found on Twitter @kengodbersoniii or on Tumblr at kengodbersoniii.tumblr.com

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