So, I picked up Imperial #1 this week from Image Comics.
With its three-dimensional title logo and striking, nearly all-white (not to mention somewhat homoerotic) cover, I thought perhaps I was in for a gay, progressive storyline. This is something noticeably lacking in comics, so I had hope. Sadly, it was not meant to be.
The basic story is as follows: Mark McDonnell is a stereotypical “gamer dude” who’s into video games, junk food, and comic books. One day, while scattering his father’s ashes, he is suddenly greeted by a comic-book character come to life by the name of Imperial. Think Mr. Clean (all in white) meets Bruce Campbell—but wearing a crown. Imperial tells Mark he has scoured the globe looking for him, or, as he more specifically states: “I have sifted the infinite populace of this entire world for one man, Mark McDonnell.”
This sets up an obvious origin story. There are a lot of well-worn moments in this book that for me have the feel of origin-story-meets-seventies-sitcom. Have I mentioned there is a girlfriend/fiancée for our hero to hide his secret identity from? Looking at her face on the cover, you would think she was just sitting at home waiting for her man to get in from a late night out with his new “friend.” For the majority of the issue, she plays the role of the super-supportive, love-is-blind, all-understanding woman behind the man. After all—he did just lose his dad, and she is in love with him. Okay, I’ll go with it, I suppose. It just came off a bit cloyingly sweet is all.
The use of language to define the main characters is stated outright. In fact, our main character points it out directly by saying, “Looking back at those comics, I suppose he was sayin’ stuff I’d never say in a jillion years.” Our hero Mark is illustrated with dumb-guy-speak: lots of “anyways” and dropped consonants (“speedin’” an’ “peein’”) type stuff. Imperial, on the other hand, draws his vocabulary from the Oxford King’s English thesaurus: “Remain here whilst I dispense of your assailant!” or “Your demise is imminent malcontent!”
This is probably the most entertaining part about the book.
The artwork by Mark Dos Santos (Grimm Fairy Tales, Hack/Slash) is pretty standard. Clean digital lines with some fun, tumble-y panels. The sunset-twilight color palette reminds me of Southern Bastards, where the coloring almost feels like another character, but in this case—maybe because the story isn’t as brooding—it neither helps nor hinders, though it is reasonably well drawn.
While perusing the back cover to pull some creator info for this article, I noticed it was Rated T/T+, which might explain why this book was less than I wanted. While mildly entertaining, it was not quite enough to pique my interest in buying future issues, even taking into account its somewhat surprising conclusion.
Overall, I am modestly pleased with this book for what it is. Though it feels a little young in the telling and a bit light on story, I may try the next issue or two just to see where it may go, as story writer Steven T. Seagle (best known for Ben 10 on Cartoon Network) has left open some possibilities that might prove interesting later on. Whereas a book like Saga leaves me pining away for the next issue and the next, Imperial kind of left me wishing I saved my three dollars.