In a lot of ways I draw parallels between Imperium and G.I. Joe volume 4 #5 & #6. They are both very dense political/military action/dramas with a large cast of varied individuals. Both have a lot of military style communication and use intrigue and deception in the course of their storytelling. At their core they are similar ideas but this succeeds where the other fails. Let’s take a look at that, I think that has the potential to be more interesting than running down the book. The larger narrative in Imperium is covered by 3 basic paragraphs of summary. If it were illustrated, like G.I. Joe, it might fill a page but this contains the most vital information you need to know to understand the context of the story and does it in the credits page leaving an extra page for actual story telling. What’s more is that through the use of boxes introducing characters and one sentence summaries of those characters we don’t lose another page of storytelling and what we need to know is present with the character, eliminating the need to reference the first couple of pages over and over again. So just by using simple, basic visual storytelling Imperium eliminates confusion and creates reader convenience. G.I. Joe is written like a novel and may be better for having visual descriptions over art, it doesn’t seem to have been made for a comic but rather a book or anthology of short stories.
This uses an original IP whereas G.I. Joe brings the baggage of expectation with it. Now, I haven’t read the greater world of Imperium, I understand there is quite a bit of back story contained in books like Harbinger and what not. It doesn’t really seem to affect my enjoyment of THIS book however. With G.I. Joe the full weight of my childhood rests upon it and while both these books are equally talky my own bias and expectation are not making me desire something I’m not getting. Here I am truly enthralled by the text although it gives me the same amount of military jargon as Joe but I feel that is because I am compelled by the world into learning about it. My expectations are defined by the text rather than my expectations defining the text. In this book I want to know what happens next, in G.I. Joe I’m waiting for a guy in a snake helmet to use a flying scooter to take over the world. Imperium effectively uses an original idea to tell a story and doesn’t try to bend a story around a rigid construct of ideas.
There is greater focus on the characters in Imperium. The locations jump around just as much in this as they do in Joe but the characters remain the same. It gives you an opportunity to learn about the characters, to connect with the characters on some level. There is cannon fodder in this book and while they aren’t given the same amount of attention, nor should they, there is something about them that makes them stand out. Even if that something is just a single line or by association with another character. While the story jumps from place to place, for the most part, we stay focused on a certain set of people. In G.I. Joe we are jumping from place to place but also to a totally different sets of characters each time. The total amount of time we spend with each set or individual characters can be counted in panels on one hand. In Imperium I feel a connection with the people I’m supposed to feel a connection to which allows me to better accept the random cameos that show up. In this issue we are introduced to the issues focus character and then jump to two additional characters that only play a brief role in this story but because they have payed off other characters I can trust that THESE characters aren’t shoe horned in and will be payed off later.
Finally there is the pacing. G.I. Joe is paced very, very poor. The way it jumps from bland talking point to boring set piece makes it difficult to follow along unless you are really into the whole political gaming that’s happening. Imperium sandwiches its political gaming with tense moments. Not necessarily action set pieces but tense character and interpersonal moments with an action climax at the end of the issue. The boring parts don’t feel boring because they are breaks from the action instead of, essentially, front loading all your boring parts so that you can get to the action. G.I. Joe is more of a flat line with a sudden spike at the end while Imperium’s plots are filled with peaks and valleys. Flat lines are never good, in the medical community it means you’re dead. G.I. Joe has a dead story, Imperium’s story is healthy and full of life. If you can’t tell, I really like Imperium and highly recommend it. I’m very much looking forward to the progression of the series.