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Imperium #1 [Review]

imperium001Imperium I: Overture

Writer: Joshua Dysart
Art: Doug Braithwaite
Colors: Brian Reber & Dave McCaig
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Cover: Raul Allen
Editors: Alejandro Arbona, Warren Simons
Published by: Valiant
Cover Price: $3.99

I’ve been looking forward to this, but on first reading found myself rather let-down. Consciously, analyzing, I can see it’s quite a good story. But this readily suffers from being only one PIECE of a singular, larger story. I read this in a mostly intentional “vacuum,” I’ve pointedly NOT kept up with spoilers, interviews, solicitations (other than seeing THAT an issue would be out), and all that, so where Harbinger ran 25 issues and ended to make way for the Harbinger: Omegas mini-series and now this…as well as Valiant in large part seeming to be moving toward limited-series over long-term ongoing stuff, I haven’t a clue if this is going to be a 4, 5, or 6 issue story; if it’s a mini-series or quasi-ongoing, or what. I see no “of X” with the number so would assume it may be an ongoing or at least a multi-arc/multi-volume series when it’s all collected…but most folks know what “they” say about “assume.”

There’s also a several-page insert in the middle of the issue, an Imperium Prelude, that I’d have to check recent not-yet-read Valiant issues I’ve gotten and keep an eye out in others this month to see if they have it, too. But its placement completely interrupted the flow of the story for me, taking me out of stuff and leaving me distracted more than engaged, and sent my mind toward thinking about other events, whether or not this is “just” an event, and so on. For this issue at least, I think that either should have been left out…or should have actually been placed at the beginning. Moreso, I think it should have been a separate piece altogether, perhaps a promo thing to be given out at comic shops as a 4-paged comic or such to promote this series. (I may even go so far as to rip it out of this issue and file it ahead of this in a box).

We open with Darpan, as an old man, traveling  about a clean, utopian future (well, to those of us reading this in 2015, anyway). He then finds his mine drawn back, and wakes in the present to realize he’d psychically experienced a lifetime in a “dream” projected from Harada. Harada gives Darpan and the others gathered a speech about how they must now adopt different tactics in bringing about the utopian vision he was granted by the Bleeding Monk. However, terrible things will need to be done to get to the end result…and that does not seem to sit well with everyone involved. Harada begins by staking claim to his own territory…putting himself at odds with the planet and the various different people–such as Aric, X-O Manowar–who will certainly come after him.

My initial griping above left aside, and “digging in” while thinking further on this issue, it IS a good issue and a solid start to a series. We’re shown a future, and then the present with people who want to move the world into that future vision. We’re introduced to several characters along with Toyo Harada himself and shown where they stand…undoubtedly some foreshadowing for coming conflict. And for whatever it might say about me personally, there’s both an authenticity to Harada’s end-goal and a part of me that would like to see him achieve it (as long as I don’t have to think too much about what he’ll have to do to get there).

If you’ve read Harbinger and/or Harbinger: Omegas, this is the next “phase” of the overall, ongoing story begun there. Despite that, as much as any such series is, Imperium #1 stands as a decently-accessible jumping-on point. You’ll benefit from the added context of reading Harbinger and Omegas, but you can jump into this pretty well by itself.

I like the art throughout the book…and thanks to the distraction from the placement of the prelude pages, I actually didn’t get distracted by the art itself or find anything really to complain about. It’s a high quality style, realistic without being overly so, plenty of detail over skimping…and quite familiar to me, having read other Valiant stuff with art from Braithwaite.

I’ve enjoyed Dysart‘s Valiant stuff and the “whole” of his stories tend to wind up larger than the parts. Paired with Braithwaite‘s art, this is one of the higher-quality not-exactly-superhero/not-exactly-NOT-superhero books out there…and well worth checking out. Alternatively, I’m confident this will make a very good reading experience in collected-edition format, whether it’s one volume or several.

Some thoughts on comics from the week of 10/30/2013

Damian, Son of Batman #1

damiansonofbatman001I’ve said in the past that those 5-page “previews” or really ANY “preview” repeated over and over and over throughout comics I *am* reading will typically NOT get me any closer to buying the comic they’re “advertising.” What I’m noticing that WILL get me, though, is a cover. See the cover to the Shazam vol. 1 enough times, I decided I was interested enough to buy it. Ditto the “main” image for this issue. Now, the issue itself…I wasn’t impressed. The art’s good, I like Damian’s costume in particular. But the story just isn’t doing it for me, at least not as a single chapter of four. And it’s been so long since I even read Batman #666 (which itself is about 76 issues old as of this typing) that there’s no real significance to me other than “hey, here’s a Damian who didn’t die.” Given all that, I don’t think I’m gonna spend $4/issue on the remaining 3 in this series…but I’ll likely keep an ear to the ground and if I hear enough positive ‘buzz’ about it, perhaps pick up a paperback of the full story once that comes out, if reasonably priced.

The Sandman: Overture #1

sandmanoverture001I was really looking forward to this in the few days leading up to its release. Then I was immediately disappointed by the covers. I couldn’t figure out which cover was the “main” cover, and of the two that I saw, neither particularly rang any bells with the (limited) “marketing” I’d seen for the series; neither stood out as “the” “main” cover. While this oughtta be a relatively minor thing, it largely soured me on initial feelings, which is not a good thing…especially as I don’t recall other Sandman comics doing the “variant thing” and The Sandman really doesn’t strike me as something that oughtta have variants…so this suddenly fell out of fitting perfectly with the “classic” stuff and into “just another modern comic.” I typically have not been a fan of this artist, not caring for the layouts and looser style and all that. However…the style works extremely well for this issue, for The Sandman. Though I don’t recall this artist working on the original series, his work fits in quite well on the whole with my recollection of the original series. Story-wise, again, it’s been quite awhile since I’ve actually read anything Sandman…so taken solely as a stand-alone thing, this issue doesn’t really impress me on the whole. Still, I recognize something in it that (thankfully) rings “true” to memory, expectation, and all that. I have the feeling I’ll enjoy this much more taken as a whole someday, when this entire arc is collected into a single volume.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #27

teenagemutantninjaturtlesidw027There’s a certain “meta” thing about this series for me, between the single issues and the collected volumes. Aside from wherever it was I got the impression of City Fall being a 7-parter (online article, perhaps…not sure if it was anything “official” in-print), I find I “see” story arcs by how they’re collected, which thus far has been some “strict” 4-issue cycle, each collected volume being exactly 4 issues without any variance…even for a specific EXTENDED SINGLE ARC like this being split up. This seems to be the penultimate chapter of City Fall, as things come to a head–and we’re set up for Big Stuff next issue. Story-wise, we get some forward momentum, though it does feel a bit like this issue’s kinda “treading water,” with some of the key stuff going on in the Villains Micro-Series rather than here. Often I’ve enjoyed the added stuff in the Micro-Series, “enhancing” the “main story,” but (for example) the introduction of Bebop and Rocksteady would have had more impact, I think, if they’d been mutated in this main book, or had they been introduced here and THEN we got filled in on the backend about their actual mutation and “trial run.) Visually I continue to enjoy Santolouco‘s work almost as much as I’m enjoying Brizuela‘s on the New Animated Adventures title. All in all, not a bad issue, but not particularly impressive in and of itself…though I’m quite looking forward to the final chapter of this arc.

TMNT Villains Micro-Series #7: Bebop & Rocksteady

tmntvillainsmicroseries007bebopandrocksteadyI’ve never been a particular fan of Bebop and Rocksteady. I see them as a key element of censorship in the 1980s, where heaven forbid the turtles should “win” “beating up” a human. The fact that they were never REALLY much threat to the turtles was also a drawback. But the cover to this issue–which I think I first saw in the “next issue” page of the previous Micro-Series issue–went a long way to change my mind on these guys…making them actually look big…and dangerous. We’ve seen the thugs that mutate, before–a couple cameos, and a cliffhanger of them being part of the group told to fight down to the last two for the chance to become “something more.” This issue gives us a bit of a “flashback” of Bebop and Rocksteady and their “gang history” before joining up with the Foot group, their actual mutation, and their “test run” in mutated form. While still the dimwitted, bumbling idiots they were in the classic cartoon, they’re treated much more seriously here, and come off as the dangerous, mutated brutes they should be…a genuine threat to the turtles despite not being the brightest. I liked the art here, and much as I like Santolouca‘s art on the main series, I far prefer Bebop and Rocksteady’s look here than their appearance in City Fall. An endearing touch in this issue is acknowledging the characters’ names/nicknames as musical styles: I still remember the sudden “click” in my mind early in college when I made that particular connection. Definitely a good issue if you want a Bebop & Rocksteady story, as well as a key issue in the overall TMNT continuity from IDW. As with other Micro-Series issues, you can ignore that number on the cover…treat this as a one-shot with timely, in-continuity elements.

The Return of the Sandman

mysandmanlibrarySo, the new Sandman series, Overture, premieres tomorrow. First issue of five or so, I believe, shipping bi-monthly. Which means almost a year of new Sandman comics, albeit ~8 weeks between issues instead of 4 (or in the case of ridiculously over-shipped Marvel titles, 2ish).

DC‘s already gonna get my money twice on this, barring something REALLY ticking me off a la Action Comics #2 or such. I’ll certainly buy the issues as they come out–I’m not waiting a couple years to get to read this! And I’ll of course want the paperback collected volume to shelve with the rest of my Sandman paperbacks.

I have a bit of “history” with the Sandman comics, certainly plenty of sentimentality to the experience of acquiring the books as well as real-life stuff going on at the time.

The earliest I recall “hearing of” the series outside of “house ads” and other DC/Vertigo-produced promotional materials was late in high school–my senior year, I believe (though it could have been junior year). A classmate who I never would have pegged for having any interest in comics was talking about this phenomenal series she’d read–something called The Sandman.

sandmanvol3dreamcountryFlash-forward a couple years, to the summer of 2001. I was working as a camp counselor in Michigan, and found out one of the other guys working there was a comics fan…though he had a preference for the non-superhero stuff. One of his favorites was Hellblazer, and through that summer he loaned me all the Hellblazer he had with him (thoroughly getting me hooked on the series, but that’s another post entirely). He’d also told me about this other series, The Sandman, and highly recommended it. Amidst the various issues of Hellblazer I read that summer, I saw plenty of house ads for Sandman stuff, which kept it on my “radar.”

Not long into the new school year, dealing with some frustration and heartache, I came across a quote that a friend had posted on his webpage that perfectly fit how I was feeling with stuff that was going on. I wound up tracking down the quote’s source, which turned out to be a volume of The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman.

Have you ever been in love?  Horrible, isn’t it?  It makes you so vulnerable.  It opens your chest and it opens your heart and it means someone can get inside you and mess you up.  You build up all these defenses.  You build up this whole armor, for years, so nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life.  You give them a piece of you.  They don’t ask for it.  They do something dumb one day like kiss you, or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. […] It’s a soul-hurt, a body-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.  Nothing should be able to do that.  Especially not love.  I hate love. [Rose Walker, The Sandman: The Kindly Ones, Neil Gaiman]

So I was interested in the source material if only for context of the quote…but “the hunt” for the volume and my interest in the series as a whole actually caught my parents’ attention.

sandmanvol6fablesandreflectionsTheir notice in my interest led to them giving me a couple volumes for my birthday (Dream Country and Fables & Reflections). Meanwhile, my friend (who’d inadvertently introduced me to the quote) picked up Season of Mists…and as I’d let him read my books, he let me read his.

Dad specifically had me confirm on the other volumes at the comic shop shortly before Christmas–I “suspected” from that that I was getting a couple more; that they were completing the series was a memorable, meaningful shock. (My parents have virtually never gifted comics/graphic novels for any occasion as they don’t keep up with all I get on my own; THAT the series was a gift from them given that makes it that much more a sentimental thing to me beyond the stories themselves).

It took me a few weeks to read everything; I read a couple volumes at my grandmother’s in early/mid January 2002 while sandmanvol11endlessnightsDad and I were there; and once back at school got to share the rest of the series with my friend, which gave us loads to talk about (also a great experience: SHARING the reading experience and having someone IMMEDIATELY to talk to who also was only reading any of the books for the first time).

I don’t recall exactly when, but I’m pretty sure I acquired the two Death volumes (The High Cost of Living and The Time of Your Life) via ebay that winter/spring.

Then in 2003 when Endless Nights was announced…it was quite the thing to look forward to. But, I recall being rather disappointed at it being an oversized hardcover…making it really stick out like a sore thumb from the rest of my volumes. But it was Sandman, it was Gaiman, and I quite enjoyed the volume.

So now, we jump an entire decade. Late 2003 to late 2013. And there’s new Sandman. By Neil Gaiman.

Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes…when you fall, you fly!

Can you tell that I’m excited?

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