Mark got laid! Now he has to try to become Imperial … and train … and take wedding photos. Life is tough and Imperial #3 is okay.
Previously in Imperial #2: ALL TREMBLE BEFORE THE EVIL THAT IS METERAX AND HIS… ah, you know what? Who gives a damn? Mark’s wedding to Katie is looming and he still hasn’t learned how to fly or gotten a superhero costume yet. But it’s Imperial who gets a lesson when Mark teaches him how to make s’mores: Jab it–Heat it–Stack it–Squish it. Now that’s worth saving the world for.
AN ADEQUATE ISSUE
In Imperial #3 writer Steven T. Seagle has a young man named Mark who has recently learned that he is destined to be a superhero and is struggling to find the balance between his secret identity and the new mantle of Imperial … and it all seems quite a lot like another Image book – Invincible. Unfortunately for Seagle, his leading man and the plot of the issue itself are nowhere near as compelling as Robert Kirkman’s.
Imperial #3 opens with Mark being woken in bed with his fiancée by Imperial – the superhero whose mantle he is apparently destined to take over. It is time for Mark to take his training seriously and to put on some clothes. Seagle hammers the nudity joke into the ground a little too much for my tastes in much the same fashion he hammers Mark’s dialect into the ground. I think the leading man is supposed to be either from Boston or possibly a suburb of New York City, but the phonetic spelling throughout the speech bubbles of Imperial #3 becomes grating rather than endearing in the style of someone like Irvine Welsh.
Something interesting that Seagle does is show the audience Imperial’s internal monologue. He has zero confidence in Mark’s ability to take up the mantle – which he can hardly be blamed for – as he attempts to teach the hapless man how to shoot energy beams from his eyes. Imperial argues with his crown, the source of all of his power and, presumably, also the voice inside his head. Seagle takes the emotions of his Superman analogue and puts them on the pages of Imperial #3 and that makes for a few compelling sets of panels here and there.
Imperial #3 continues with Mark’s failure to learn (he vomits the energy rather than fire them in ocular beams), and a harsh cut back to the real world plot. The narrative brings Katie (Mark’s fiancée), back into the picture for their engagement photos/wedding planning session. I think the idea is that as Mark builds his superhero identity he is also building the foundation of his secret identity, but it’s so difficult to see why a character as beautiful, interesting and sweet as Katie would put up with a loser like Mark – much less why she would agree to spend the rest of her life with him. Their B-plot together comes off as trope-y and boring in the end.
In the end of Mark’s training with Imperial he does have a breakthrough, but it’s almost too little too late from Seagle by this point in Imperial #3 that it’s difficult to care. Mark spouts a few unoriginal lines about always being considered a screw up and, overall, the issue is adequate. It hits all the beats that one would expect in an origin story, even if none of the emotional beats land.
SOME ADEQUATE ART
Much like the story, the art in Imperial #3 is pretty much okay. Artist Mark Dos Santos’ pages are a little flat with backgrounds often entirely reduced to colour gradients that are probably supposed to illustrate the American desert, but ultimately feel lazy on the panel.
The characters themselves look pretty similar. Mark – the protagonist of Imperial #3 – and Imperial – his mentor – look almost identical. Certainly there are implications that the two characters may, in fact, be related, but again, with two characters wearing almost the exact same face save a beard and some age lines … it’s just not the most compelling visual.
Katie is probably the best thing Dos Santos puts on the page throughout Imperial #3. She’s cute, freckled and has red hair (and awful lot like Atom Eve, just to harp on the Invincible comparison), although she doesn’t get a ton of time on panel. It’s unfortunate, in the end, that the best thing visually about Imperial #3 is a secondary character.
THE BOTTOM LINE: LEAVE IT ON THE RACK
Imperial #3 is an okay effort at a superhero origin saga. It lacks in distinction and flare in all departments. Leave Mark and Imperial where you find them.