After a lot of delays and build-up, the real kick-off to Marvel’s big 2020 event, Empyre is here! Empyre #1 kicks off the event that will run through Marvel’s series this summer. And the issue is just filled with predictable twists and the usual plot issues that lead to moments like this. For those who haven’t been paying attention, the Skrull and Kree empires have unified under one leader. Their first campaign is to wipe out an alien race called the Cotati who they have a history with.
While the concept on paper sounds interesting, disparate groups uniting to commit genocide, the story by the end is so much different. And, what’s in between that beginning and end is just frustratingly bad in both storytelling and art.
The issues with the story is the conflict itself. The Avengers have been summoned to the moon by the Cotati while the Fantastic Four have stumbled upon the Kree/Skrull fleet. Hulkling, of the Young Avengers, is now in charge of the Kree/Skrull empire. The Avengers and Fantastic Four think he’s flexing his muscles and shedding blood to cement his rule. When in reality, it’s something else. The entire battle that explodes would easily have been avoided if Hulkling just explained why they planned on wiping out the Cotati. But, in superhero story shorthand, that can’t happen and the misunderstanding results in an epic battle. It’s frustrating to read knowing that the whole misunderstanding would be avoided if just a sentence or two would have been spoken. But, that’s too easy and would be too adult for a comic series it feels like. Diplomacy isn’t as exciting as giant battles.
But, it’s not just the conflict of the comic that’s frustrating. Valerio Schiti‘s art too is just odd at times. The Fantastic Four kick off the issue and Schiti’s depiction of Mr. Fantastic is so beyond off. Numerous characters feel like they are getting the short end of the visual depictions while other aspects look great. It’s an inconsistency that runs throughout the issue and is too noticeable to not be frustrating. And that frustration is a shame as there are some truly amazing moments in the comic. There are memorable moments without memorable visuals.
Schiti does have a difficult task of packing a lot into the panels and having a lot of variation of what’s on the page but there’s some key characters that need to be gotten down in style and they fall short. Then there’s the Cotati themselves whose imagery towards the end feels a little off and adds some uncomfortable, and odd, layers to the storytelling. By evoking Native American imagery, the design of the Cotati at the end creates even further complications to the story. The colors by Marte Gracia and lettering by Joe Caramagna though are solid throughout the issue.
Empyre‘s lead up issues generally have been really solid setting up the situation and catching readers up. Empyre #1 though feels like a letdown in a very basic and silly plot and visuals that aren’t up to snuff. Marvel’s cosmic side of things have been getting exciting but Empyre #1 feels like it’s a step back from all the gains that have been made in recent years.
Story: Al Ewing, Dan Slott Script: Al Ewing Art: Valerio Schiti
Color: Marte Gracia Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Story: 6.0 Art: 6.5 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation: Pass
Purchase: comiXology – Amazon – Kindle – Zeus Comics