The best intentions lead to the worst acts.
Welcome to Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s epic tale of Empire, a world being remade by the will of one man, a man whose power and planning allow him to be almost unstoppable. Golgoth, the Emperor made of the worst of ruthless humanity, finds countries falling before him like wheat, his plans sowing terror and obedience ahead of the forces that suffer no resistance, and his highly placed ministers running a soullessly effective Empire where no one is safe, and everyone’s being manipulated.
I find it terribly refreshing when artists allow the “bad guys” a chance to shine – not anti-heroes, not affable rogues whose cavalier attitudes don’t let them help anyone but themselves, but truly dark beings who look at what is, decide that it is not acceptable, and use any means to reshape the world in their image. The ballad of the megalomaniac, laid bare for all to see and wonder. Mark Waid has created just this kind of monster and gives it an incredible amount of life. Golgoth mercilessly runs his creation, using narcotics to empower and enslave his underlings who run an Orwellian dystopia built on the backs of the conquered. In this world, the only thing that brings him joy is his daughter, kept innocent and separate from the world he’s created, his seemingly only source of joy. Waid has built a world that terrifies us with how plausible it seems, yet manages to vault even our highest expectations of how depraved it can be, surprising the reader again and again, somehow managing to chill us further even when we’ve lost all feeling. Amazing plot devices are set up so subtly, and when the boom lowers, all you can do is be amazed at the audacity of it all, wanting to pull away but realizing the complete comprehension of the reveal has burned itself indelibly into your mind, leaving a mocking image that you can’t escape. Seriously, it’s that good.
The art team does a wonderful job bringing Waid’s hideous vision to life. Barry Kiston balances the fine line between deliberate and casual cruelty fantastically, allowing one to begin to dull before letting the pendulum swing back and knock us squarely in the face, and in some instances giving the double barrel in really brazen moments (a section involving a bridge, drawn out like a Socratic lesson from the reader in such a cunning moment it’s hard to not marvel at it). The characters never fade to the background, and the focus is kept super tight throughout.
This is a fantastic book for anyone who’s been curious if it would really be that bad if the Joker or Luthor really was allowed to run things. Bringing an amazing and heartbreaking understanding of good intentions leading a person astray, and watching the brutal implementation of that will is a great cathartic release, allowing us to revel in the bad guy for a bit. It’s definitely worth your time.
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