If I had to criticize Imperium, that is, ostensibly, what I do after all, it would be that there isn’t a clear line of where this story is going. The first issue sets up a Utopia, so we know where the story ends, and then flashes back to a period of unrest. Yes we have the HARD Corps as antagonists and the feeling that perhaps the whole world is politically allied against Toyo Harada, our main character, and his superhuman psiot Foundation. But I don’t get a sense of goals or lines or forward momentum. Don’t get me wrong they are very entertaining in the meantime but I don’t have a sense of where the story is going and to what purpose it’s trying to achieve. The flashback in the first issue was a solid narrative device to introduce us to the world and provide exposition without being awkward or clunky but it also took some of the venom out of the stories bite. I now know how this all ends so the purpose of the story is to show us how it got to the ‘present day’ featured in the first issue. That’s the end goal and we should already start seeing progress towards that but I’m not seeing it. Knowing that the world ends in utopia softens the terrible things Harada does, but it also doesn’t really make me like him anymore. They managed to protect Toyo Harada in the first two issues, but in this issue he comes off as the worst person ever. Even knowing that he creates utopia doesn’t make him any more likeable here. In the course of these 24 pages he enslaves two sentient beings and tortures someone who tried to defect to his side from the HARD Corps. I don’t know what they did to Gravedog, the defector, but I’m pretty sure they turned him into a human bomb and sent him back only to explode him later.
The crux of this issue focus’ on their sentient robot Sunlight on Snow who everyone insists on calling by the name Mech Major, which Sunlight on Snow hates, but they continue to do to remind the robot that he’s a robot and has no choices. Real classy. Most of the issue is Sunlight on Snow talking about his own sentience as it relates to a Vine seed they’re growing. Fans of X-O Manowar will know the Vine as those conqueror aliens that tried to take over Earth. I like how interconnected their universe is with certain universal items that bind everything together.
Toyo Harada puts Sunlight on Snow in charge of growing this seed and he begins to feel connected to it. He opens up to it, literally, to reveal that Harada has kept, and keeps, Sunlight on Snow from connecting to any networks in an attempt to prevent artificial intelligence singularity. After the seed grows an assassin, Harada reveals that he tampered with the seeds genes to cut it off from the Vine which causes it great pain. He then convinces the assassin to join his ranks. In many ways Sunlight on Snow and the assassin seed have much in common with the difference being that Sunlight on Snow abhors violence while the assassin seed is born to revel in it. Both, however, are being kept from ‘connecting’ with the outside world.
The metaphor of ‘connecting’ extends throughout the issue. Whether it’s Sunlight on Snow’s inability to connect to a physical network of computers, or his inability to emotionally connect with his fellow Foundation members. The same goes for the captured Gravedog who betrays the HARD Corps, kills his teammates and surrenders himself to the enemy all in an attempt to connect with his own independence, or at least a group he doesn’t have to feel bad about working for, only to be rigged and used by Harada. The assassin seed is another character who lacks a connection but this one causes it physical pain and brings on madness. Finally Harada doesn’t seem to have a connection to anyone. The issue is very well written and complimented nicely with fantastic artwork. While the story doesn’t really have any forward momentum towards those opening scenes in the first issue the characters and setting are interesting enough that I’m happy staying wherever they want to put me.