Phillip Kennedy Johnson gave his Captain America Empyre tie-in one of the toughest parts of any global conflict to deal with: American military policy. Ol’ Cap had his hands full in issue one trying to convince high ranking officers of providing support to the other countries of the world also fighting the Cotati. America refused, even when told they could inspire international allyship. Empyre: Captain America #2 is an exploration of that decision’s consequences.
Illustrated by Ariel Olivetti, Empyre: Captain America #2 continues to keep the bar high as a tie-in comic. It’s a great example of what these types of comics should be: short incursions into the event that can result in some fun worldbuilding mechanics. To use a music metaphor, good tie-in books can be rip-roaring guitar solos to the hit song that is the event. Johnson and Olivetti’s Empyre book is precisely that.
What makes this comic an essential read within the larger event is that its discussion on the politics of war on Earth feel epic and high stakes. Should Captain America fail at bringing together the international community to fight the Cotati as a singular force, Earth will have its hands full with an enemy that will never fall to the efforts of an individual country.
Captain America makes this point throughout. He speaks to soldiers and world leaders on the dangers of putting too much weight on heroics and not enough on the soldiers and people that are involved in every aspect of war. In one particular instance, Captain America tells a story about a Nazi ambush during World War II that incapacitated him and forced his fellow brothers in arms to take lead and salvage what they could out of the situation. Half of those soldiers died so that Captain America could live.
These types of stories help explain the comic’s focus on military action and how it can be used for good. It also falls in line with Empyre’s main story, where we see the idea of heroism clashing with the idea of practicality. Should heroes put their lives on the line when a less dangerous approach exists? What does this say about war? What should we be asking of soldiers when faced with the extreme realities of combat?
Olivetti’s art does an amazing job of showing the Cotati as a lethal invading force that is undoubtedly alien but also eerily similar to Earth’s vegetation. If the story were about our own vegetation rising up and trying to eradicate humanity, it would still work. The Cotati can infect humans with living seeds that turn them into Cotati themselves. For these sequences, Olivetti takes a very gruesome body horror approach that adds to the lethality of the invaders.
Empyre: Captain America #2 is an impressive exploration of the Cotati invasion and its forays into military policy basically hold up a mirror to America’s Army and how it could be doing more than it usually does.
Story: Phillip Kennedy Johnson Art: Ariel Olivetti
Color: Rachelle Rosenberg Letterer: Ariana Maher
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0
Recommendation: It’s Captain America. Why wouldn’t you buy it?