For many years, Toyo Harada was one of the primary villains of the Valiant Universe -- but now he's the star of his own series and finds himself the underdog against the recently introduced Divinity.
In Imperium's current arc "Broken Angels," Joshua Dysart and Scot Eaton pits the the classic Valiant villain against it's newest force of destruction. And given Divinity is a cosmonaut-turned god, even Harada's monster squad is no match for this new adversary.
With Imperium #8 due out September 2, Newsarama talked with Dysart about the current arc of Imperium, as well as what's on the horizon and how he's turned one of Valiant's big bads into the hero of his own book.
Newsarama: Joshua, catch us up -- what's going on with Imperium leading into the new issue?
Joshua Dysart: Harada has tasked himself with creating a global post-scarcity Utopia at all costs. To this end he has taken over the coast of Southern Somalia and established the Foundation Zone. There, East Africans – and anyone else who can get to it - come and find education for their children and safety from the overwhelming poverty and extremist warfare that characterizes their lives. To further his global agenda, Harada has put together a very special team of super-monsters (a riff on the super-villain team trope, hopefully in a new and interesting way). Now Harada and his team have stormed the massive submarine base of the military corporation that has the billion-dollar contract to stop him.
Harada and his team are onboard the sub in an effort to steal a prototype cold fusion reactor that could generate power without the need for fuel and without creating any toxic byproduct, technology that will help Harada achieve his vision. But in the midst of the battle the entity known as Divinity is seemingly seen onboard.
Nrama: In Imperium #7, the recently introduced character Divinity showed up -- his first appearance outside his own series. Can you talk about that?
Dysart: I don't mean to be flippant, but story is best revealed in story form, if you know what I mean.
Nrama: And what does Divinity think of someone like Harada?
Dysart: What these two men want, how they view the moral and ethical implications of their actions and their power, to what degree they are driven by ego, who has control over the other, these are all central reveals, and drivers, of the story.
Nrama: Playing things close to the vest. Let’s go big picture then: this series has changed Harada from being thought of as an ensemble character or an an antagonist into his own leading man. How do you think Harada has fit into this role? And is a more unconventional lead character harder or easier for you as a writer?
Dysart: We've tried to make him a leading man in a strange sort of way, by giving the ensemble around him the narrative voice, and having Imperium be about the way they perceive him. #7 is the first time since the Harbinger: Omegas miniseries that we're actually telling a story from Harada's point of view. I'm love shifting narrative perspective, because I think it makes the book expansive and I mostly want to see characters "punching up", that is, facing something greater than themselves. Up until now, Harada really hasn't faced anything categorically greater than himself. Divinity is the perfect character to allow me to focus entirely on Harada, because Divinity makes Harada the underdog.
To answer the last part of your question, I think it may be a little more difficult to find humor and relatable emotion in a story with Harada as the protagonist, but that's just part of the project’s challenge.
Nrama: And coming up a soon is a new arc in #9, "The Vine Imperative." Are these the aliens from the first X-O Manowar arc years ago?
Dysart: Yes, The Vine Imperative is about, in part, the dwindling population of Vine plantings on earth. Culturally and primarily biologically, they are terran (earth-like). Once they held a vast amount of power across the globe. But since the X-O Manowar armor came back to Earth and brought with it the attention of the Vine home world, the plantings have really taken a backseat in our planet’s affairs.
Nrama: What led you to revisit the Vine here with Harada and his crew?
Dysart: The relationship between the Vine plantings and Harada has always been something I was interested in, and it's never really been touched on. Harada and a powerful Vine planting would've surely met early in Harada's rise to power, and that meeting would've been pretty explosive, since both would've have seen the other as a threat. With the backstory of LV-99 (a Vine designed sentient biological weapon now in service to Harada) hovering over the book, I thought it was a good time to tell that story.
Nrama: Give us your best sportscaster tale of the tape, Harada vs. the Vine -- how do they match up?
Dysart: This isn't a match, it's a generational conflict, so I'm not quite sure how to do that. To be honest, I’m not sure I know what a “tale of the tape” is!
Nrama: We’ll give you that. Last question then, what does this mean for the series as a whole?
Dysart: Every narrative step we take in Imperium achieves two things. First, it illuminates our characters further. To me, character is more important than plot. So when we're done with this arc we should have a deeper understanding of LV-99 as a character, and a deeper understanding of how the Vine civilization on Earth operates. But we also want to push the whole series forward. The point of Imperium is to watch Toyo Harada struggle to create a global post scarcity utopia and see why that does or does not work.
So in our first issue of the new arc, you'll see Harada make a huge, bold political move that will have lasting ramification on global relations all across Earth.