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When Valiant Next was first announced, the biggest questions for fans (including this writer) were “Why Imperium? What is the series? Where’s Harbinger?”

As it turns out, we were asking all the wrong things—or so author Joshua Dysart would have us believe in Imperium #1. 

Here’s what we should have been asking:

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What will the future look like?

Thanks to the incredibly well designed cover by Raul Allen featuring Harada and a group of new characters, the questions multiplied. Even though various interviews disclosed more information about the book, there is still a lot of plot being kept secret about this comic. Fans have been kept in the dark regarding the location of Peter Stanchek of the Renegades. In addition, barely any description has been released about the new team members. Imperium #1 is hardly concerned with answering any of these questions throughout the first installment.

What we do know about Imperium is that the series takes the premiere Valiant nemesis, Toyo Harada, and teams him up with a motley crew of villains.

Within the description text of the first issue, villain and protagonist Toyo Harada notably wishes to “End global conflict and bring about world peace…at any cost.” That’s a great window into this character, especially when thinking about how world peace may not be the absolute answer to all our problems on a global scale.

Joshua Dysart is a writer with political concerns in mind, a perspective that superhero titles rarely include. This story takes those elements to ground and enhance the backdrop of the story.

IMPERIUM #1 [VALIANT NEXT]
Written by JOSHUA DYSART
Art by DOUG BRAITHWAITE
Cover A (Harada) by RAUL ALLEN
Cover B (Lord Vine-99) by RAUL ALLEN
Cover C (Major Mech) by RAUL ALLEN
Valiant Next Variant by TREVOR HAIRSINE & TOM MULLER
Character Design Variant by DOUG BRAITHWAITE
Artist Variant by DOUG BRAITHWAITE
Blank Cover also available

What will the future look like?

Have you ever found yourself asking that question? That’s the idea behind the first half of Imperium #1, a tale that might be one of the most bold superhero works since Dysart chronicled Unknown Soldier at Vertigo.

The author’s consistent choice to veer into the unexpected does not alienate readers, but fully draws them into the narrative surrounding the text. With that in mind, this installment is not for readers looking for a more traditional superhero story. Nor is this a more static reinterpretation of a villain in the Valiant world. It’s the start of something completely new.

Similar to Rai, there are countless threads that link this comic to the Valiant Universe, building to a stronger continuity with increasing depth. Regardless of Imperium‘s innovative format experimenting with nonlinear storytelling, the ongoing is still part of a huge shared Universe. The story never lets the reader forget that, which will likely pay off in the next couple of issues.

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Like a truly awe-inspiring rollercoaster, fans will never see the twist at the end of this installment coming. Especially since the title has brilliantly evaded a concrete plot synopsis. After a lengthy interview Joshua Dysart conducted with Comics Beat, the author managed to avoid nearly any synopsis on the plot of this first issue. The best clues pointing to what the first segment of this comic can be best stitched together in the preview pages.

This first issue of the series uses the protagonist Toyo Harada in an extremely creative manner by having him interact with the story in an innovative hands-off approach. A new psiot takes the point-of-view narration to explain their own philosophy. This issue is mostly driven by their character interaction, and for good reason, as this is a morally ambiguous piece of fiction.

Imperium #1 is built upon a lie, a potent and beautiful lie that creates an exciting narrative thread. The effects pointing towards what this story could possibly mean for the greater Valiant Universe is left wide-open, but it’s for the better. If Dysart continues this streak of really using the series to make it’s audience second guess every decision they have ever made, this could be something really special. Imperium #1 stands out amongst a thousand #1’s in a crowded comics market. This is a story that demands focus but culminates in an incredibly emotionally charged reward.