“Imperial” #2 is at its core a lot of cliches about relationships and superheroes all bundled into one. Steven T. Seagle and Mark Dos Santos’s comic about a man chosen to be the successor to the superhero Imperial hits every point that you see coming a mile away; there are no surprises here. And yet, somehow, there’s a charm surrounding this comic that makes it a winner.
The basic plot is still simple enough, with Imperial trying to g groom his replacement. Seagle’s main character of Mark — the everyman who’s been chosen to replace Imperial — has his schlub nature played up even more in “Imperial” #2. With shortened slang for words, misunderstanding of vocabulary, and a tiny bit of gay panic, we get it. He’s your average joe. He’s normal, and we’re not talking about an upper-class white-collar idea of average. And to be honest, at a glance, I can see readers getting tired of Mark. I know I found myself growing irritated with him as I read the first half of “Imperial” #2. Segle seemed to be dumbing him down too much, making him a little too “aww shucks” to handle.
But in spite of myself, somewhere around the s’mores scene — which is about as cliched as you can get — I hate to admit that I found myself liking Mark. Once Seagle dials down the unsophisticated take on his protagonist and focuses more on the fact that Mark’s at heart a really good guy, he becomes much more enjoyable. Sure, teaching the superhero that’s lost his humanity about the joys of snack food is a little groan-worthy, something you’d see in an uninspired superhero film. But still, it works in “Imperial” #2.
Part of the charm probably comes from Dos Santos’s art, which is clean and handsome. He’s got a wonderfully sweet smile, one that looks unselfconscious as it lights up his face. But then again, all of the expressions in this book are great. Look at how Mark reacts when he’s saying, “That’s minor?” to Imperial; you can see the terror in his eyes as the whites are on display, and how his hands are subconsciously moving up to his face in fear. Compare him to Imperial, who has similar features but comes across very differently. His eyes are a bit colder and sharper, his brow furrows in anger or frustration a lot. Mark looks like he could be Imperial’s son, but you’d never confuse the two for the same person because of how Dos Santos handles their body language.
“Imperial” #2 ends up working because of its charm. We’re not getting enough of Mark’s fiancee Katie yet, and since this is just a four-issue mini-series I’m hoping that changes soon since we’re at the halfway point. Still, overall, this book as a certain je ne sais quoi that pushes it into the above average zone. Whatever it is, Seagle and Dos Santos need to keep it going.