Joshua Dysart writes one comic title per month – Valiant Comics’ Imperium. For established writers with his track record, that is unusual, and Dysart is not want for work. He’s simply focusing on writing only one title a month so he can produce the best story within him, and it shows with the sophistication and appeal of Imperium.
For the uninitiated it’s focused on Toyo Harada, potentially the most powerful character in the Valiant Universe with his abilities to hack minds, control people, and manipulate matter at will.
There are few limitations to his abilities, which have created the perfect conditions for Dysart to develop the thrust of Imperium: What would a person with these powers do in order to achieve a utopian society? More importantly, would the actions of this character be construed as benevolent or villainous?
Harada seeks to create a post-scarcity world order where warfare, poverty, and hunger are things of the past. Dysart, through his own engagement with the human condition that has led him to distant corners of the world into some of the most dangerous places to live, has granted Harada a framework and perspective under which to operate. However, one person having the power to make something like this happen creates conditions for a totalitarian nightmare. Therein lies the paradox that makes Imperium and Harada so fascinating and complex.
Toyo Harada fits both the benevolent and villainous label depending on a few perspectives. His vision is inflexible and leads to disastrous consequences for those who attempt to block his way. By virtue of that, those that stand in his way view him as a villain.
For those that are benefiting from the seeds of his vision, the post-scarcity zone he has created in Somalia, Harada is viewed as a deliverer from the current nightmare of warfare over resources. Because of these polarities in which his character exists, Dysart has managed to carefully capture the gray area of how a vision that benefits humanity can crush the individual. And it’s an interesting question that he poses that is not easily answered. It’s what keeps Imperium interesting and vital in today’s comic market.
Dysart isn’t the first comic writer to tackle politics and the human condition. Those ideas exist as far back as Siegel and Schuster’s Superman who took on criminals, wife beaters, and corruption. However, Dysart’s work on Imperium has arguably taken the discussion of these ideas to the next level.
Imperium may be the most important comic book being published right now for this reason. When one takes into consideration the current state of politics, environmental issues, and conflicts over resources, Imperium is very much a comic of our time. It represents the struggle with wish fulfilling our way into a better future and the heavy cost that comes with that mindset.
While Imperium may be a perfect blend of sci-fi, horror, and superhero action, at its core it is a treatise on what happens when that Superman people hope for has a dark side. It’s an examination of a deeper observation about the state of humanity and what ails it. It’s a reflection of the singularity, something nebulous, something that has yet to reveal its full face. And that’s why you should be reading it.