Another week, another slate of new Marvel releases! This week, their latest cosmic caper Empyre kicks it up a notch with a new issue of the event along with a slew of tie-ins that aim to explore how the Kree/Skrull Alliance is impacting the Marvel universe. We’ve also got a mini review of the much-anticipated X-Men tie-in to the event, written by regular X-scribes Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard.

And to cap it off, we have a Rapid Rundown of this week’s non-Empyre-related releases of Daredevil, Wolverine, and the final instalment of X-Men/Fantastic Four!

Empyre #2

Empyre #2

Story by Al Ewing & Dan Slott 
Script by Al Ewing 
Art by Valerio Schiti
Colour art by Marte Gracia
Lettering by Joe Caramagna 
Cover by Jim Cheung Guru-eFX 

It’s honestly surprising how much I’m enjoying this story so far, and you know what? I should have known. I should have known that a space saga scripted by Al Ewing would have at least been worth a read, but this second issue reaffirms my impressions of the first; this is a fun, subversive story that’s constantly surprising me every few pages.

What works the most is that there are so many dimensions to this story. Between the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Kree/Skrull partnership, and the Cotati, there are a myriad of perspectives and motivations at play which constantly kept me on my toes, especially with this issue’s ending which muddles things even further. Throw in that mysterious character from this issue’s opening pages, and we’ve got an event that will definitely be more complex as it moves along.

One aspect of this comic I didn’t know what to think of going in was the writing collaboration between Ewing and Slott. They’re fundamentally different writers so I assumed there was some element of them combining their strengths into one project, and this is indeed the case. This issue combines Slott’s bombast with Ewing’s superheroic empathetic storytelling. Basically, you have a very comic-booky plot with strong dialogue and characterisation.

As for Valerio Schiti’s artwork, it is excellent. I’ve been reading Schiti’s comics for years now and I’ve noticed he certainly stepped up with this event. It’s probably the inclusion of colourist Marte Gracia, who is injecting some Pepe Larraz-level goodness onto these pages. This may have been an intentional choice given Larraz’s popularity following his X-Men debut a year ago. A particular page featuring a certain god of thunder’s mightytriumph definitely reminded me of Larraz’s staging and character work, so Schiti can now probably be considered an alumni of the Stuart Immonen School of Cartooning. Schiti just captures everything so well, from the double-page spreads showcasing blockbuster action to these very expressive and clear character moments; the art is stupendous.

As was the case with last year’s War of the Realms, the only real problem I have with this issue in particular is the fairly obvious and somewhat distracting tie-in set-up. As I recall there were about a trillion and a half tie-ins solicited before the pandemic hit, so I’m not even sure if all these plot threads will come to fruition in other comics.

I’m giving this a BUY. If you were worried that this was a contrived story with no natural origin point, then fear not. This is as Marvel as Marvel gets, harkening back to stories of the past but also clearly laying the groundwork for a new and exciting story. I wholeheartedly recommend this as well as the previous issue and the Avengers prelude.

Empyre #2

Empyre: X-Men #1

Empyre: X-Men #1 

Written by Jonathan Hickman Tini Howard 
Art by Matteo Buffagni 
Colour art by Nolan Woodard 
Lettering by Clayton Cowles 
Design by Tom Muller
Cover by Mike McKone Chris O’Halloran 

I enjoyed this a great deal, but I’m struggling who to recommend this to due to the nature of this being a tie-in to a largely unrelated event.

X-Men readers will definitely need to check this out. Hickman and Howard focus on a few characters that haven’t really made an appearance since the big relaunch like Angel, Monet, and Scarlet Witch. This also has that classic Hickman humour which truly makes this feel like a part of the Dawn of X line of books. The writers surprisingly make light of what I understand to be a monumentally tragic event when it comes to X-Men continuity, so I don’t exactly know what to make of that.

As for Empyre readers… you can probably skip this. Especially if you’re not reading any of the X-books. So much of this issue hinges on understanding the mutants’ current status quo as well as some of the characters that pop in. You’d otherwise be lost if you didn’t have any knowledge whatsoever about this side of the Marvel universe.

This is a gorgeous book, though. Nolan Woodard is quickly becoming one of my favourite colourists, and their work shines beautifully through Matteo Buffagni‘s pages. Buffagni doesn’t service the comedy well, however. As I said before, this is a funny book but I feel like the dialogue is doing the heavy lifting in that regard. Buffagni occasionally has a few panels featuring fairly still characters which doesn’t contrast well with the dialogue. Besides that, this is a beautifully-made comic.

I’m giving this a BROWSE because of the conflicting audience. I know who would like this but I’m worried the wrong person would pick this up thinking it’s a straight tie-in to the Empyre event, which it isn’t. It’s more of an X-Men story.

Rapid Rundown!  

  •  Daredevil #21
    • A new story arc kicks off in the latest issue of Daredevil, and boy am I glad to have this book back in my life on a regular basis. Chip Zdarsky reaffirms his concrete grasp of Matt Murdock at every turn, and Marco Checchetto delivers on the numerous big moments throughout the issue. Seeds planted in the first issue of this run are starting to bear fruit, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. —JG
  •  Wolverine #3
    •  I’m so thankful for this issue. The ending of the last issue really soured me, as I thought it was too similar to Wolverine stories of the past. I should have had faith in the creative team because turns out… there was a little more than meets the eye. This was a gorgeous, if not anticlimactic, end to the series’ opening arc. Me personally? I’m excited for that vampire storyline to come back. HW 
  • X-Men/Fantastic Four #4 
    • The conclusion of this miniseries finds the X-Men and FF united against a common foe, and it’s exactly who you think it is. Doom just can’t help himself, and as a reader there’s very little that’s more fun than watching one of his plans fall apart on him. Zdarsky and Terry & Rachel Dodson deliver a satisfying conclusion to a miniseries that ultimately ended up being a lot of fun. —JG

On next week’s Rundown, another issue of Empyre, and the long-awaited debut of X-Factor!