Pencils: Doug Braithwaite
Colors: Brian Reber (w/ Ulises Arreola)
Letters: Dave Sharpe
The “superpeople” genre can often get stuck up in all the wondrous and fantastic ideas it creates that works can sometimes lose sight of the connective tissue of humanity necessary for the story to work. Not saying one requires characters to speechify their feelings on every other page, but getting into the psychology of a character can be very critical. I have seen other readers of Imperium start to question about where this series is going to go, but I think they are very much missing the point of this series (also, these questions can be endemic of the event-based mentality of the Big 2, but this is a discussion for another day). While the abilities these characters display and the concept of a “war for utopia” are interesting, it’s the why these characters do what they do that make this book.
As always, spoilers throughout. Read along with me.
This was the first cover that I wasn’t crazy for. Not because it’s a bad cover. Raul Allen’s composition for this set of covers has been great. No, as you will read, I think the cover is very disingenuous of the content within. A more appropriate cover would have been the alternate cover for issue #1 which has the character this issue is focused on. But I digress.
I think there is an undercurrent of nihilism within a great deal of what is often considered “villain books”. If nothing matters, then the status quo doesn’t matter so I will go against it. It once again raises the question of true “villains” in this book that this feeling of nihilism runs within these people that are trying to make a new and better world.
Massive praise to Valiant regular colorist Brian Reber, for creating such a stark, haunting sunset with Braithwaite’s pencils.
This is our first look at “The Foundation Zone” that Harada and his troops have created in the territory in Somalia they have taken over. The concept of “post-scarcity” is an interesting one. Simply put: it’s a theoretical economic system in which goods, services and information are universally accessible. In a nation like mine where decent health coverage seems like a luxury, post-scarcity would have such necessities available for everyone. Naturally, this is the antithesis of our cripplingly capitalistic world.
Such a society requires incredibly advanced technology to create. It actually makes one consider how Valiant creates its world. In a world that has people with superpowers and has had two alien invasions, it would be no surprise that technology would be a bit more advanced than our own. Could this be the beginnings of the world Harada shared in issue #1, or just the pyre upon which our protagonists will burn?
“Nations are an anachronism”. This is one of the couple of lines that stuck out to me. This thinking would apply to people like Harada, who is so detached (beyond?) from humanity in some ways, but very human in others. It also applies greatly to our own world. Thanks to technology, I have friends in Canada, Mexico, U.K., Ireland, South Africa, Japan, Australia and more. Friends that share common ideals and beliefs. So what is a nation compared to that?
Hmmm. Never thought Sunlight on Snow would be one for Sam Raimi films. (Oh come on! You were thinking the same thing.)
Despite the focus that Sunlight on Snow will get in the second half of this issue, this is the most “Harada-heavy” issue we have had to date. We see a few of his facets: his scientific prowess and, let’s face it, extremely manipulative nature. It shows why, even in this world of immortals, shadow monsters and gigantic robot ships, Harada may be the scariest of them all.
It’s a testament to Dysart, Braithwaite and Reber to give us another great deal of character work in the short scenes Gravedog is in this issue. It is also this scene and what will come later that gave this annotation its name. Names have power. It is our sense of identity. The meaning behind our names are also very important. When used in context of within the Valiant universe, the name “Toyo Harada” brings a great deal of fear with it. In the case of Gravedog, his true name, Borz, a wolf, brings with it a whole deal of tragedies throughout his life. Digging further into that wolf metaphor, it highlights the fact that Gravedog is alone, separated from his potentially extinct pack.
We now begin the dive into the central character of this issue, Sunlight on Snow, the Mech Major. He has essentially been Harada’s prisoner since his “birth”. The relationship between Sunlight on Snow and what will become Lord Vine-99 is an interesting one in their commonality: their detachment from, essentially, their “culture”, the rest of the digital world for Sunlight on Snow and the Vine hive mind for LV-99.
And now we have the reason for Sunlight on Snow wanting his name.
Memories are an interesting thing. To paraphrase Doctor Who, one could say we are the sum of our memories. It is a question that I have pondered more and more in regards to other comics (especially from DC’s rebooted “New 52”). If you remove memories or willingly choose to ignore memories a character should have, how far does it go before that character stops being the sum of their memories/experiences? Likewise, is what we know of Sunlight on Snow, and essentially what makes us empathize with him, truly real or fabrication?
To fawn over the art a bit: look at that beautiful first panel!
There is an inlaid fault in Harada and his goals. The fault is his, and his soldiers, hypocrisy. Consider their goal: To create a world-wide utopia for regular humans and psiots alike. The irony is that for their beliefs, they break them completely in the way they treat Sunlight on Snow. They don’t consider him a sentient. They consider him a thing. A tool. The “Mech Major” who isn’t even allowed the basic right of a name. The irony of it is, this anger and feeling of helplessness has made Sunlight on Snow one of the most human characters of the series so far.
It’s also Sunlight on Snow’s knowledge of old pop culture that makes him feel human!
Now let’s take a focus on the other member of this group, Lord Vine-99. First, props to Braithwaite and Reber for rendering his…umm…gestation in background over the beginning of the issue in wonderful detail. Now, I am not as up to speed with X-O Manowar, the book the Vine feature more heavily. I only came on board with the book post-Armor Hunters. But we are given enough to know what LV-99 is and its starting conflict.
Purge the Tyranid scum in the name of the Emperor! But seriously, loving the design of Lord Vine-99.
Harada’s hubris is going to destroy them all.
Recently, Valiant announced that its summer event is called The Book of Death. Part of this event is going to involve many of the books going to the “end” of their stories. In context of the Harbinger/Imperium-side of the Valiant U, the final confrontation between Toyo Harada and Peter Stanchek. It is fitting that even in these “early days” of Imperium, Harada seems to be setting up his own doom. It makes the wait for The Book of Death more tormenting.
Pages Twenty-Twenty One
This team has interested me on another level, and it would take someone that has really followed this story since the beginning of Harbinger. Harada always saw Peter as the antithesis of everything he was trying to build. And yet, as I think of it…
We have a large robot, who is the most humane of the group, who also uses pop culture references and seems to be gearing to be the breakout character of the book.
And a large creature that seems to be out for gratification (even if this involves killing).
Maybe I am just looking too much into this, but that does sound a bit like Faith and Torque. The irony reaches a whole new level when you realize that Harada and his group are enemies of the world. Renegades, if you will…
Page Twenty Two
Gravedog cannot catch a break.
I am not going to make any assumptions on how Gravedog got back to PRS. Too many things don’t add up that will probably be answered next month. But here we have, what seems to be the final member of this group: Angela Peace Baingana, the Broken Angel. This threw me a bit since we’re technically introduced to her last issue and I thought she was just a science officer. This also returns to what I said about the cover of this issue. “Next: Angela’s Story”. You would figure the cover of the issue with “Angela’s Story” would be a cover like the one we had on this issue, but no.
My annoyance with the cover aside, this may have been one of my favorite issues that Valiant has done. Sure, the plot has yet to truly kick in, but I found that really irrelevant to the masterful character work. Sunlight on Snow (and yes, that is his name. Deal with it) is one of the most fascinating characters that Valiant has put out and that is saying something. It is going to be a shame that Braithwaite is leaving the book after issue #4 because his designs for these new characters have been a lot of fun and he and Reber’s depicting of Sunlight on Snow’s memories is absolutely haunting.