On the day Mark McDowell goes to spread his father’s ashes over the Colorado Rockies, superhero Imperial tells Mark that he has been chosen to succeed him in the role as Imperial, a superhero legend. Mark McDowell promptly wets himself and flings “an arm and two legs worth” of his father onto Imperial.
Mark McDowell is an everyman. A regular guy who could drop a couple pounds, demonstrates no extraordinary skills or driving motivation, and possesses the backbone of a jellyfish. And he is a comic book and action figure collector.
All that’s known about Imperial is that he’s been around, he seems to inspire awe, and Mark has always been a big fan of his comics. Whether that means Imperial is real or fiction-made-reality isn’t stated, but due to Mark not stuttering about Imperial being just a comic book character, it’s a safe bet that Mark’s encounter is more along the lines of meeting a celebrity than first encounter with an alien ambassador.
As this is a first issue, there isn’t a lot of content to draw from—yet. There’s a promise of some definite soul-searching and coming-of-age/coming-of-identity in later issues. For a world-building issue, the first foray into Imperial’s setting is satisfying enough to not leave the reader confused yet slight enough that curiosity is piqued. With a certain casualness, Image’s Imperial briefly introduces us to a world where marriage, geekery, life, death, and superheroes all can and do cross.
The narrative moves at a quick clip without being jarring or too abrupt. Pages are laid out in a more traditional, Western comic style, all square and rectangles with neat ninety-degree angles, but flow well, read well, and artist Marc Dos Santos has a lovely talent for using interesting angles inside each of his panels. Dos Santos also has solid anatomy and perspective, and his use of color is appealing and well-balanced. In particular, Dos Santos’ top-notch color-shading-angle combo works exceedingly well to invoke a mood and tone when moving from inside a well-lit restaurant to outside on a lamp-lit street at night, to then an even darker skyline and night sky backdrop high in the air.
Writer Steven T. Seagle has so far created enjoyable characters that are less new friends and more unfamiliar acquaintances. Each character has his or her own unique voice. Notably, Mark who uses ‘ta’ instead of ‘to’ which makes one wonder where exactly his accent is from? Seagle presents Mark’s vacillating confusion and denial in place of any deep-seated mystery—although issue #1 does end on a sucker punch.
A quick read, Imperial has promise. With a few more issues in its repertoire, Imperial could really come into its own as a, well… it’s isn’t exactly clear. Coming-of-age tale? Origin story? Miles-as-new-Spidey set up? Either way, only the surface has been scratched, so I’m super (hah, pun) curious to see what direction Seagle and Dos Santos have in mind for Mark.