Tag Archives: joshua dysart

Underrated: Imperium

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: the comic book Imperium


When Valiant Entertainment relaunched in 2012, one of the four books that the publisher started with was Harbinger. Arguably one of Valiant’s signature books, the original series launched in the 90’s with the publisher’s first incarnation. I have never read the 90’s series in full, but have dabbled in an issue here or there (specifically the two that contained chapters of the multi-book crossover Unity). I have, however, read the entirety of the modern Harbinger run, and own a smattering of individual comics and the three deluxe hardcovers containing the story; Harbinger Deluxe Edition One, Harbinger  Deluxe Edition  Two and Harbinger Wars 
Deluxe Edition. Until very recently, I had not read Imperium. While I have had access to the review copies for years, I had long decided that I would rather read the story in print form so I was waiting to pick up the deluxe hard cover edition of Imperium from my LCS. A couple weeks ago, I finally ordered it.

It cost me $65 before taxes and it was worth every penny.

There are easy comparisons to make between the Harbinger story and that of the X-Men, between Toyo Harada and Magneto; an incredibly powerful man who wants peace at any cost. The truth is when I was reading the book there are obvious similarities to the X-Books. Especially now that the X-Men have their own nation state, which is where Imperium finds Toyo Harada and his Foundation.

Joshua Dysart pulls the sixteen issue story in from various places in the Valiant universe, touching upon characters that will be familiar if you have read the previous Harbinger run that I spoke about (again) last week. If you haven’t read those books it shouldn’t be a big deal – the story is told in a way that it can be read alone, but you’ll miss out on some context here and there (and a great build up) if you skip what came before.

Watching Harada build his nation state free of scarcity while fighting the countries that are trying to stop him over the course of sixteen issues is fascinating. We watch him take some extraordinary measures to ensure that he is left alone, and we wonder whether the man is truly as philanthropic and good as his ideal seems or is he as self serving as he sometimes appears?

Although the book is told from Harada’s perspective Dysart never quite leaves you confident that you should be rooting exclusively for him. Should he be stopped? Or does his means justify the ends?

What makes this such a great story is that Dysart has balanced the antagonists so well that nobody seems to be explicitly evil aside from a certain corporation out exclusively for profit, which illustrates the nobility behind Harada’s ideal while underscoring the capitalist nature of our society. There are so many different aspects to this story; the concept of artificial intelligence becoming sentient, does anybody ever truly have free will, the balance of sacrifice for progression of the greater good. What devils do you have to make a deal with?

When it comes to everybody else in this book you have to wonder whether you should root for anyone.

Joshua Dysart’s writing will educate you, encouraging you to think and develop yourself all while delivering one of the greatest stories in comics. That sentence was as true for Harbinger as it is for Imperium. He has a unique ability to distill a greater political and ideological idea down into a story that will never overwhelm a reader but also leaves you thinking about the nature of the politics involved long after the cover has been closed.

Whether this story is one told from the villain’s perspective as he tries to achieve his goals having convinced his followers they are doing the right thing or if it is story about a hero who faces insurmountable odds as he tries to make the world a better place will differ on how you read the book.

And that, for me, makes it an utter masterpiece.

This series is the subject of today’s Underrated because I had long heard how brilliant the story was from others who have read the book so I ended up reading the full run in almost a single sitting. And I realized that I seldom hear people talk about Valiant’s Harbinger comics or Toyo Harada. I hope that changes. Especially after the last week with the publisher focusing on the character this week.

Underrated: Imperium

This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: the comic book Imperium


When Valiant Entertainment relaunched in 2012, one of the four books that the publisher started with was Harbinger. Arguably one of Valiant’s signature books, the original series launched in the 90’s with the publisher’s first incarnation. I have never read the 90’s series in full, but have dabbled in an issue here or there (specifically the two that contained chapters of the multi-book crossover Unity). I have, however, read the entirety of the modern Harbinger run, and own a smattering of individual comics and the three deluxe hardcovers containing the story; Harbinger Deluxe Edition One, Harbinger  Deluxe Edition  Two and Harbinger Wars 
Deluxe Edition. Until very recently, I had not read Imperium. While I have had access to the review copies for years, I had long decided that I would rather read the story in print form so I was waiting to pick up the deluxe hard cover edition of Imperium from my LCS. A couple weeks ago, I finally ordered it.

It cost me $65 before taxes and it was worth every penny.

There are easy comparisons to make between the Harbinger story and that of the X-Men, between Toyo Harada and Magneto; an incredibly powerful man who wants peace at any cost. The truth is when I was reading the book there are obvious similarities to the X-Books. Especially now that the X-Men have their own nation state, which is where Imperium finds Toyo Harada and his Foundation.

Joshua Dysart pulls the sixteen issue story in from various places in the Valiant universe, touching upon characters that will be familiar if you have read the previous Harbinger run that I spoke about (again) last week. If you haven’t read those books it shouldn’t be a big deal – the story is told in a way that it can be read alone, but you’ll miss out on some context here and there (and a great build up) if you skip what came before.

Watching Harada build his nation state free of scarcity while fighting the countries that are trying to stop him over the course of sixteen issues is fascinating. We watch him take some extraordinary measures to ensure that he is left alone, and we wonder whether the man is truly as philanthropic and good as his ideal seems or is he as self serving as he sometimes appears?

Although the book is told from Harada’s perspective Dysart never quite leaves you confident that you should be rooting exclusively for him. Should he be stopped? Or does his means justify the ends?

What makes this such a great story is that Dysart has balanced the antagonists so well that nobody seems to be explicitly evil aside from a certain corporation out exclusively for profit, which illustrates the nobility behind Harada’s ideal while underscoring the capitalist nature of our society. There are so many different aspects to this story; the concept of artificial intelligence becoming sentient, does anybody ever truly have free will, the balance of sacrifice for progression of the greater good. What devils do you have to make a deal with?

When it comes to everybody else in this book you have to wonder whether you should root for anyone.

Joshua Dysart’s writing will educate you, encouraging you to think and develop yourself all while delivering one of the greatest stories in comics. That sentence was as true for Harbinger as it is for Imperium. He has a unique ability to distill a greater political and ideological idea down into a story that will never overwhelm a reader but also leaves you thinking about the nature of the politics involved long after the cover has been closed.

Whether this story is one told from the villain’s perspective as he tries to achieve his goals having convinced his followers they are doing the right thing or if it is story about a hero who faces insurmountable odds as he tries to make the world a better place will differ on how you read the book.

And that, for me, makes it an utter masterpiece.

This series is the subject of today’s Underrated because I had long ehard how brilliant the story was from others who have read the book so I ended up reading the full run in almost a single sitting. And I realized that I seldom hear people talk about Valiant’s Harbinger comics, or Toyo Harada. I hope that changes.

Bad Idea Has Some Very Interesting Ideas for the Comic Industry

Yesterday, the new comic publisher Bad Idea was announced and teased. Today, we have more details on what to expect.

Debuting in May 2020, the publisher will release one or two single issues per month in a “pristinely designed, prestige-format package” for $3.99. There will be no variants and the issues will not be released digitally, collected into trade paperbacks, hardcovers, or other “bookshelf formats.” That means there will only be single-issue comics.

But, there’s a catch! The comics won’t be available everywhere. Instead, Bad Idea will self-distribute the series to an initial 20 comic book shop who will qualify based on “a unique system of criteria” that includes extra promotional commitments and a “strictly enforced ‘limit one per customer'” policy for Bad Idea comics, among other stipulations. More retailers will be admitted throughout the year to eventually bring that number up to around 50 stores by the end of 2020.

Megalith

The first series will be ENIAC by Matt Kindt and Doug Braithwaite. Other projects are coming from Marguerite Bennett, Mae Catt, Joshua Dysart, Tomas Giorello, Eric Heisserer, Jody Houser, Lewis LaRosa, Jeff Lemire, Peter Milligan, Adam Pollina, Robert Venditti, Zeb Wells, and more. In the announcement, Megalith was also teased with a cover by Lewis LaRosa. Projects have been worked on for the past year in “secret.”

First issues will usually be oversized with page counts exceeding the standard 22 pages or feature “hidden features” and other surprises not mentioned in public.

The goal is to get people into comic shops making each release an event.

Bad Idea is the brainchild of the five team members that rebuilt Valiant and developed the forthcoming Bloodshot feature film. Dinesh Shamdasani and Warren Simons will share the roles of Co-CEO & Co-Chief Creative Officer, Hunter Gorinson will serve as Publisher, Joshua Johns will serve as Director of Marketing, and Atom Freeman has returned as a Sales Consultant.

Underrated: Harbinger

I was going to write about Imperium this week, but I haven’t finished the hardcover book I picked up Wednesday from my LCS. So instead of rushing a column on a book that deserves a lot more attention than I’d have time to give it, I decided to rerun a column about the series preceeding Imperium.


This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: the comic book publisher Harbinger


When Valiant Entertainment relaunched in 2012, one of the four books that the publisher started with was Harbinger. Arguably one of Valiant’s signature books, the original series launched in the 90’s with the publisher’s first incarnation. I have never read the 90’s series in full, but have dabbled in an issue here or there (specifically the two that contained chapters of the multi-book crossover Unity). I have, however, read the entirety of the modern Harbinger run, and own a smattering of individual comics and the three deluxe hardcovers containing the story; Harbinger Deluxe Edition One, Harbinger  Deluxe Edition  Two and Harbinger Wars 
Deluxe Edition. The latter also contains four issues of Bloodshot that tie into the Harbinger Wars miniseries – also four issues. The series is also collected in trade paperback as well (though I have no idea how many volumes). I realize I’m rambling at this point, so I’ll get back on to the subject at hand.

It would be easy to compare Harbinger to the various X-Men comics Marvel has released through the years; both feature teenagers with powers originating from a a genetic difference (although Valiant’s psiots need to be activated through risky painful procedures or times of extreme stress whereas Marvel’s mutants just need to hit puberty), and both have a villain character who is more complicated than you would initially expect. While the comparison is justified, it also does a disservice to the Harbinger comics to write them off as another publisher’s X-Men imitation.

Especially because Joshua Dysart’s run on the series (which also include Imperium, which I have inexplicably not finished yet) deals with some really interesting concepts that you don’t often find elsewhere. It’s for this reason that I hold his run as some of the very best team based comics that been published in the last ten years (honestly, I’d also go so far as to say that I’ve ever read).

The characters are wonderfully deep and complex, some are flawed and broken, searching for a redemption that may never come; others are desperately trying to make the world a better place no matter the cost; one wants to destroy a shadowy organization that may or may not have more worldly influence than they should regardless of the cost; and one wants to be a bonafide superhero in a world in which right and wrong and good and evil are not always on the same side. The series, at its most simple description, can be boiled down to two incredibly power psiots, Peter Stanchek and Toyo Harada having a disagreement, and at the outset you know who fills the typical hero/villain positions, but after a few issues you’ll begin to question who you should root for.

Should you root for anyone?

Dysart’s story is a wondrous thing. In giving us a gripping and emotional tale about people who just happen to be caught up in events, people who are just reacting – and not always well – to the stimuli around them, some of whom are super powered, he also leaves us questioning the traditional role of the hero and villain. Much like Magneto and Professor X were allegories for Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 60’s, Stanchek and Harada represent the world we live in today; shades of grey where ethically and morally questionable decisions are made by the people we’re supposed to hold in high esteem. Dysart uses these characters to remind us that beneath the power, the people we follow are just as flawed as the next person. Stanchek, with his position as a hero within the book, has made some pretty fucking awful decisions – ones where forgiveness shouldn’t be given lightly – but then is Harada any better?

We’re only scratching the surface here (and honestly, only the first trade or so if you’re going the non-deluxe route), and Dysart doesn’t let up throughout the run. His writing will educate you, encouraging you to think and develop yourself all while delivering one of the greatest stories in comics.

I don’t mean to discount the artistic contributions to the book, and it may seem that I have, but Harbinger, like almost every Valiant book, features some consistently brilliant artwork by artists, colourists and letterers that will have you asking why you hadn’t heard of them before (since the series wrapped, some have gone on to become more familiar to comic fans in general). I remember reading the comics for the first time and being in awe of what I was seeing; Harbinger remains one of the only series which I have framed on my wall simply because the interlocking covers to issues 7-10 by Mico Suayan are so damn pretty.

The art more than balances the story, which is an impressive feat.

This series is the subject of today’s Underrated because I had forgotten how amazing it was until I sat down and read the full run in almost a single sitting. And I realized that I seldom hear people talk about Valiant’s Harbinger comics, or Toyo Harada. With one of the most complex and interesting characters in the medium getting a six issue miniseries this year, I hope that changes.

Do yourselves a favour, add The Life and Death of Toyo Harada to your pull list now. Preorder the series because, and I say this after having read the first issue already, it’s going to be amazing.


As an addendum to this column, I’d like to say that The Life and Death of Toyo Harada was every bit as good as I hoped. Yes, I am aware that reading the end before the middle isn’t always ideal, but c’est la vie.

Preview: Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Creation Myths: The Complete Collection SC

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Creation Myths: The Complete Collection SC

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Brian Holguin, Joshua Dysart, and Matthew Dow Smith
Artist: Brian Froud, Alex Sheikman, and Lizzy John
Letterers: Derron Bennett, Dave Lanphaer
Cover Artist: Brian Froud
Price: $39.99

Collected for the first time in one oversized edition, this series reveals the definitive origins of the Skeksis, Mystics, Gelfling, and the Dark Crystal itself while introducing all new characters in an epic spanning thousands of years. 

Written by Brian Holguin (Spawn: Origins), Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier), and Matthew Dow Smith (Doctor Who), and lushly illustrated by Alex Sheikman (Robotika) and Lizzy John (Fraggle Rock), Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths  is a breathtaking return to the fantasy world that has captivated audiences for over thirty years.

Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal Creation Myths: The Complete Collection SC

Preview: The Life and Death of Toyo Harada TPB

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF TOYO HARADA TPB

Written by JOSHUA DYSART
Art by CAFU, MICO SUAYAN, BUTCH GUICE, ADAM POLLINA, KANO, DIEGO YAPUR, DOUG BRAITHWAITE
Cover by MICO SUAYAN
TRADE PAPERBACK | ISBN: 978-1-68215-328-4
$24.99 | 224 pgs. | T+ | On sale OCTOBER 9th

The world’s most powerful man is about to become its most dangerous… Don’t miss this sweeping, continent-spanning chronicle of Toyo Harada’s last gambit to remake Earth in his own utopian image…or sacrifice everything in the process. Collecting the complete THE LIFE AND DEATH OF TOYO HARADA six-issue limited series.

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF TOYO HARADA TPB

Preview: Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths: The Complete Collection HC

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Creation Myths: The Complete Collection HC

Publisher: Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios
Writer:  Brian Holguin, Joshua Dysart, and Matthew Dow Smith
Artist: Brian Froud, Alex Sheikman, and Lizzy John
Letterers: Deron Bennett, Dave Lanphear
Cover Artist: Brian Froud
Price: $39.99

Collected for the first time in one oversized edition, this series reveals the definitive origins of the Skeksis, Mystics, Gelfling, and the Dark Crystal itself while introducing all new characters in an epic spanning thousands of years. 

Written by Brian Holguin (Spawn: Origins), Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier), and Matthew Dow Smith (Doctor Who), and lushly illustrated by Alex Sheikman (Robotika) and Lizzy John (Fraggle Rock), Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths is a breathtaking return to the fantasy world that has captivated audiences for over thirty years.

Jim Henson's Dark Crystal Creation Myths: The Complete Collection HC

Review: The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6

The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6

The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6, the captivating conclusion has arrived!

It is going to be very difficult to talk about this issue without spoiling anything about the series. So I’m going to break the review into two parts; one will be utterly spoiler free and full of analogies and metaphors and the other will begin with a very obvious spoiler warning, because although I won’t give away major plot points for The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6, I will assume you’ve read the five issues released so far. If you want to read the spoiler free bit and drop down, you can do that easily. You’ll find the scores at the end after a clear notice the spoilers have ended.

If ever there has been a series that encapsulates excellence in comic book story telling, it’s this one. The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada is the kind of book you really should go in completely blind too. Whether you read Valiant’s comics or not, this series is one you should read. As the end of Harada’s tale (that’s not a spoiler, that’s a statement based on the series name), this couldn’t be more fitting. A hero to many, a villain to more; a man many have thought of as a god, and who has been labelled as a devil, over the course of his life should not have an ending in black and white.

There’s a lot to this series. A lot to unpack.

Toyo Harada is the kind of character that doesn’t come around often, and when they do, they’re always divisively popular as they begin to make one question whether they are truly villainous or merely driven by their goals. Harada was often framed as the villain in Harbinger, though one can argue that was simply because of the side of the story we were following, rather than the character being evil (again, there’s the divisive aspect of the man – there are more times than not that I find myself agreeing with his goals, but not always his methods). As Alan Moore wrote in Watchmen “I understand. Without condoning or condemning, I understand.”

I wrote this in the review of the second issue, and have yet to find a better descriptor of the character from my own words.

Obviously, there’ll be a lot more to unpack than I could possibly go into without staying spoiler free. But let’s just say that you won’t read this book just once.

It’s a story you’ll want to read numerous times; like any great book, each read gives you a deeper understanding of the material. Each read allows you to pick up on details you missed the first or second time in much the same way a video review allows a referee to go back and look again at a play – it gives them more clarity on the moment.

Each read of this book, this wonderful story wrapped in some of the best art you’re likely to see in a comic, just gets better and better.


Begin Spoilers


Alright. There will be spoilers here, but only minor if you’ve read the previous issue.

When The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #5 ended we were thrown a curve ball on the final page. I genuinely did not see it coming; the first part of this issue is dedicated to explaining how the final page of the previous issue, with Harada being a bit more than the atomic stain we assumed he was by the mid point of the story, tying up the loose ends that Dysart had been leaving us to pull at.

After Harada’s utter defeat at the coalition of nations and companies arrayed against him, we get to see an entirely new side to that conflict. We see how Harada had planned for and anticipated almost everything. We see how his story comes full circle. It’s a surprisingly emotional comic that will leave you with more questions about how you see the world; about how you interpret the phrase “the ends justify the means” and it will leave you rethinking your personal definition of hero and villain.

The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #6 is more than a comic. I mean yes, it is literally a comic, but it serves as so much more; it’s the finale to perhaps the greatest miniseries of the year, it’s a brilliant read in it’s own right. Dysart will play with your expectations like a lead guitarist plucking out a solo on stage or a mariachi manipulating the strings in an intimate setting. He twists around Harada’s tale before finally revealing his hand in a near perfect moment.

For while Harada has lost personally, he was willing to sacrifice everything so that his ideals would live on. In so doing, he ensure that his enemies are able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

There were less spoilers there than I expected.


End Spoilers


This has been a fantastic journey from beginning to end. If you haven’t read Dysart’s full run with the character, I highly suggest you do so. That way you’ll get the full impact of this story. If you haven’t, and you don’t want to, then you should still read The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada. It’s the kind of comic that other publishers wish they had; this has been the jewel in Valiant’s cap this year, and comes at a time when the publisher is just getting their feet under them once again after a couple of misses in 2018. Utterly phenomenal.

Story: Joshua Dysart Art: Cafu and Doug Braithwaite
Colours: Andrew Dalhouse
and Diego Rodriguez Letters: Dave Sharpe
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided a FREE copy for review, but this is a book I’ll be buying when it hits the racks.

Review: The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #5

The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #5

In The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #5, Toyo Harada is dead! 

The long-lost secret of Harada’s estranged son revealed! Harada’s final allies stand strong as they protect their master’s vision!

The penultimate issue of Valiant’s The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada shows how the members of Harada’s team are dealing with his demise and the fall of his dream. That Toyo Harada could be seen as a villain is a fairly obvious statement; he was the antagonist of much of the Harbinger series, after all. The opposite can also be said. Harada’s primary goal has always been to create a Utopian society. One where the problems and issues stemming from current governing systems can be avoided or corrected. One has to ask, in the face of this utopia, which he will do anything to achieve, is the world justified in declaring war against Harada?

Who is the villain in this story that has more grey areas than a certain book series.

Toyo Harada is the kind of character that doesn’t come around often, and when they do, they’re always divisively popular as they begin to make one question whether they are truly villainous or merely driven by their goals. Harada was often framed as the villain in Harbinger, though one can argue that was simply because of the side of the story we were following, rather than the character being evil (again, there’s the divisive aspect of the man – there are more times than not that I find myself agreeing with his goals, but not always his methods). As Alan Moore wrote in Watchmen “I understand. Without condoning or condemning, I understand.”

I wrote this in the review of the second issue, and felt it needed repeating. This is a book that lives in the moral grey areas, and I love it.

The Life and Death of Toyo Harada #5 opens with some poignant and at times heartbreaking moments. It features Harada’s allies as they each come to terms with his death in their own way. Stronghold’s thread reveals a little more about Harada’s past through the eyes of a young Stronghold. Sunlight On Snow’s scenes are an absolute highlight of the comic. They’re beautifully presented and are one highlight among a comic full of wonder.

I’ve already mentioned that artistically, The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada #5 is freaking awesome. With the talent of Cafu and Kano, who are joined by colourist Andrew Dalhouse, the expectations are obviously going to be high – and they’re more than met. When a series has so much potential as this one has, it’s easy to assume that maybe there’d be a fault to find – either with the art or with Joshua Dysart‘s writing. There isn’t. This book, indeed the entire series, is nigh on perfect.

It’s actually kinda hard to explain in words just how awesome this series is; both as a capstone to Dysart’s run with the character, but also as a standalone series about a man who knows he’s destined for greatness. The series as a whole has risen from strength to strength, and with one issue left, I’m already earmarking this as being an early favorite for my top comic of 2019.

Story: Joshua Dysart Art: Cafu and Diego Yapur
Colours: Andrew Dalhouse
and Diego Rodriguez Letters: Dave Sharpe
Story: 9.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Valiant provided a FREE copy for review, but this is a book I’ll be buying when it hits the racks.

Preview: The Life and Death of Toyo Harada #5 (of 6)

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF TOYO HARADA #5 (of 6)

Written by JOSHUA DYSART
Art by CAFU, KANO
Colors by ANDREW DALHOUSE
Letters by DAVE SHARPE
Cover A by BUTCH GUICE
Cover B by RAÚL ALLÉN
Cover C by JACK HERBERT
$4.99 | 40 pgs. | T+ | On sale JULY 17th

Toyo Harada is dead! 

The long-lost secret of Harada’s estranged son revealed! Harada’s final allies stand strong as they protect their master’s vision!

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF TOYO HARADA #5 (of 6)
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