As I Lay Dying: Some Thoughts On The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada

The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada continues what I adored about Imperium, a superhero comic about the intersection of African realpolitik and superheroes. I think writer Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier, BPRD: 1947) did a tremendous job there. He (along with CAFU, who drew Imperium volume 3) finally return to close out Toyo Harada's story. Unfortunately, The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada requires so much previous reading (the four volumes of Imperium) that anyone who comes into The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada will probably close the issue thinking "wait, who are these people"?

I understand the desire to brand The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada on its own, but I believe a catch up page would help out the new readers coming in blind.

Here's the story: Toyo Harada, child of the Hiroshima bombing and Valiant's most recognizable villain, starts a post-scarcity society in Somalia. To do so, he must blunt the attacks of Project Rising Spirit, Valiant Entertainment's evil megacorp, his former protege Livewire, and Western governments justifiably suspicious of Harada's motives.

How far are you willing to go in service of the better world? In Harada's case, pretty far. Just look at his supporting cast: Hyper-violent alien as part of a quasi-deliberative hive mind (Level-99) is one. Lovecraftian god juicing or guiding the intelligence of a Muslim woman (Angela Vessel) is another. So's Sunlight On Snow, a killer robot programmed with a conscience amongst a group of actually inhuman killers. Sadly, he's mostly referred to as Mech Major.

It takes a long time, and despite a valiant effort (sorry), but Toyo Harada's plans failed. Now, protecting infrastructure still in a foundational state, Toyo Harada must pay the proverbial piper.

The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada starts there.

Pencillers CAFU and Mico Suayan (Bloodshot: Reborn, X-Men Legacy) knock it out of the park. CAFU draws the present day, where Toyo Harada tries to keep his project above water, and Mico Suayan draws Harada's past. It's Harada's past that make the present make a lot more sense. Harada, whom the US bombed in Hiroshima, grew up in the shadow of the US, and sees the US as just another group of gangsters. Which, given the CIA worked with the LDP and the yakuza to stabilize Japan after World War II, isn't far off.

Valiant sent over the first two issues. The second issue arrives without colors, but contains my favorite scene of the two issues, a confrontation between Toyo Harada and an associate that's both frightening and funny. CAFU delivers an unnerving couple panels of a hypothetical gulag for pregnant women.

At bottom: I can't recommend the first two issues of The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada to a casual reader. But if you enjoyed Imperium, welcome back. If you enjoyed Dysart's Unknown Soldier, but wish it came with more fantastic elements, give The Life And Death Of Toyo Harada a try.