Is Toyo Harada the mutant villain that Marvel is missing? Or did he just take Magneto’s spirit animal?
I sometimes lament the passing of the villain. I mean when was the last time you read a book in which the villain was being villainous and not pleading for us to like them? It is not like I hate understanding the bad guy perspective but Lord I miss a proper villain.
In some ways Toyo Harada is both a proper villain and the thing I have issue with when reading a superhero comic. Harada, the villain of the reimagined Harbinger series (Valiant Comics), is the headliner of the new title Imperium.
Written by Joshua Dysart and drawn by Doug Braithwaite, Imperium is the story of Toyo Harada’s continued crusade to take over the world by any means necessary.
Before I go in I need to explain that Imperium takes place after two previous books: Harbinger and Harbinger Wars. Harbinger was the tale of powerful psychic Peter Stancheck and his battle with Harada who through his Harbinger Foundation was basically trying to rule the world. Imagine the X-Men except Xavier and Magneto were one person and Cyclops, Wolverine, and Storm had to fight him.
The Harbinger series ended (Spoiler) with Harada defeated and the world finding out he was a super villain. Imperium begins from this.
It’s hard not to find the world Dysart has set up intriguing. In his hand the first issue illustrates the complexity of who Harada is by the world he creates around him. Here is this man that wants to create this better world and can show this through the power of his mind. The problem is he is also prepared to lay waist to a large number of human beings to make it happen. The contrast in the vision he gives Darpan (one of his Harbinger faithful) that we see in the beginning highlights his inner heroic narrative but also a level of manipulation that undermines him.
Harada in issue one is a man in charge of a cult that has had its faith shook and he is resulting to brainwashing to keep them in line. The violence carried out later in the book contrasts with the peaceful future from earlier. It is a testament to Braithwaite’s talent that both are well rendered.
While I like the story anyone coming in may find your reading enhanced by checking out the previous Harbinger series for context.
I think for me Imperium’s first issue worked because it was the perfect start for a series with enough action and set up to make you want to come back for #2.