Despite a rough first issue, Empyre has turned into one of the most intriguing events from Marvel in some time. Empyre #4 cements that with a further exploration of horrors of war and some reveals that’ll shock and excite.
Al Ewing and Dan Slott have been crafting the story with Ewing handling scripts and the team has really nailed this event. Despite its rather obscure origins, the series has really just used Marvel’s cosmic side of its universe to explore interesting philosophical topics and shake things up.
Things aren’t going all that great on the battlefront which puts Emperor Hulkling in an awkward decision-making spot. Does he sacrifice Earth and its 8 billion residents to save trillions? The issue hints at an answer and raises questions if this is really the Hulkling we know. The question feels a little groan-inducing with Secret Invasion within memory and the idea of “evil replacements” feeling a bit soap opera for an event that has raised some really interesting questions.
That questioning of Hulkling leads to so much though. It’s Ewing and Slott’s focus on the characters in the main story instead of the overall battle that makes the main series stand out and keep getting better. That focus extends to Tony who is having a crisis of confidence which might feel sudden but makes sense concerning his experiences in the first issue. The confident man has been knocked down quite a few pegs leaving himself questioning his decisions and abilities. This isn’t a series of confident brash characters saving the day but one of tough decisions and moments of doubt.
Slott and Ewing also use the issue for some major revelations that will have readers buzzing. Not only is a marriage revealed but another has been revealed to have died on the moon which immediately sets up a new series spinning out of Empyre when it’s over. Both are the shocking highlights within an issue full of contemplative moments and hard decisions.
Valerio Schiti’s art feels like it has gotten to be consistent from the inconsistent first issue. Characters have gotten their design down and there’s a focus on scenes using panels instead of splash pages delivering a big picture. A battle in Wakanda is depicted in chaotic panels instead of a two-page spread which would have worked. Schiti is joined by Marte Gracia and lettering by Joe Caramagna. The trio realize this is a character driven drama as a opposed to a summer visual blockbuster. It doesn’t mean there’s not moments to shine. The lack of splash pages works as a group of heroes confronts the Cotati leader in hopes of talking sense into him which morphs into a big reveal and action sequence.
Empyre #4 continues to improve the series which has decided to shift the big visuals to other series and instead, so far, focus more on the individual impacts of war and the difficult decisions that have to be made. There’s been twists and turns as things have become more complicated. What began as a stereotypical eye-roll of an event has evolved into something far more deep.
Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 8.10 Art: 7.75 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review