Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review - Imperial #1

"I wasn't, y'know, expectin' someone ta drop in from above like that...Out in the middle of nowhere an', I kinda freaked a little."

Being a hero is easier said than done. Sure, everyone says they'll jump into a burning building to save their loved ones, but when there really is a fire, fear steps in and takes over. Heroes overcome this fear and do what's necessary. That fear they must overcome certainly has nothing do with meal tasting for a wedding, as it does in Imperial #1 from Image Comics. The issue is written by Steven T. Seagle and illustrated by Marc Dos Santos.

Mark is just a guy. He's two weeks away from marrying the woman of his dreams, finalizing the details of his wedding and enjoying living with a new roommate. He's also in line to be something else. Something bigger. He's been tapped by Imperial--the world's only superhero--to take the crown from him. That leaves Mark with a pretty big decision. Take the ring of the woman of his dreams and becoming a married man? Or take the crown of the world's only superhero and becoming the next Imperial?

Superheroes as everyday citizens is quickly becoming a new trend in comics, with many writers focusing more on the ramifications of superheroes on normal life. Seagle takes things in a slightly different direction, tasking a "normal" with the responsibility of being the next incarnation of the hero. Giving the new hero a choice so to speak is refreshing and hammers home the concept that powers may be appealing, but balancing them with real life is tricky. Seagle doesn't have Mark find this out after the fact; rather, he essentially is tasked with choosing if he wants to be normal or super having only known the normal side. The dialogue does a great job conveying this choice, as Imperial uses somewhat more established and refined conversational words, while Mark's fiancee Katie is emphasized as being a little more crass.

There's a buddy cop aspect to Imperial #1 and Dos Santos reinforces this with his relatively light illustrative style. Mark, Imperial and Katie are the main characters in the book and they're illustrated with an emphasis on their simplicity. Dos Santos relies on extremely clean lines for his characters and they feel like organic participants in the world of the book. That's a testament to his ability with the backgrounds, somehow making an abundance of rather simple shapes feel like more in-depth than one would expect. It's a very minimalist style that fits with the equally stripped down story that's very simple in its presentation.

Imperial #1 feels new. It's capitalizing on the recent trend of normalizing superheroes, but giving the reader a character who doesn't know what it's like to be a hero before having to choose provides a path less traveled. Seagle's story is remarkably straightforward and simple, but there are many deeper levels of subtexts buried within that simplicity. Dos Santos' art is equally as spartan in some ways, while still managing to demonstrate a level of complexity that readers will appreciate. Imperial #1 is a quality book that appears poised to move in a relatively unknown direction.

Imperial #1 is in stores now.


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