This week’s Marvel Rundown is looking at the latest installment in the Empyre event storyline. The Lords of Empyre: Swordsman one-shot spotlights the ancient Cotati inhabiting the form of the former Avenger, a key figure in the plant species’ war against the Kree/Skrull Empire and the invasion of Earth. What role did he play in instigating the conflict?

We’ve got a review of that issue, plus a Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel titles for the week, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!

Lords of Empyre Swordsman
Lords of Empyre: Swordsman #1

Lords of Empyre: Swordsman #1

Written by Alex Paknadel
Illustrated by Thomas Nachlik
Colored by Marcio Menyz
Lettered by VC’s Ariana Maher
Cover by Rod Reis

Marvel is nearing the end of Empyre, but with one issue left in the publisher’s first big event of the year, there’s still time to go back and examine how the key players in the story ended up where they did. This week’s Lords of Empyre: Swordsman one-shot does just that, flashing back to tell a tale of a pre-war Quoi and his father, the Prime Cotati elder trapped in the form of Jacques Duquesne, the former Avenger Swordsman.

Writer Alex Paknadel follows up on his earlier Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah one-shot with a story that essentially shows how Quoi was radicalized. The Cotati are extremely sympathetic as presented here, with legitimate grievances against the meat-based lifeforms with which they’re now at war. The relationship between Quoi and the Prime Cotati is central to Quoi’s journey, and the conversation and ongoing argument between the two throughout the issue is a powerful one. Paknadel conveys Quoi’s journey, and the impact of the Prime Cotati’s influence, exceptionally well, and the event that ultimately leads to Quoi changing his point of view is heartbreaking, and all too relatable and understandable.

Lords of Empyre Swordsman
From Lords of Empyre: Swordsman #1

The visuals from artists Thomas Nachlik and Marcio Menyz in Lords of Empyre: Swordsman are striking and evocative. Nachlik renders thick forest and ancient ruins beautifully, and with a style that’s unique among Marvel’s overarching ‘house’ style. Menyz’s colors complement Nachlik’s linework, adding warmth and depth to the look of the issue. The pair’s action sequences are perfectly intense and visceral, and go a long way towards helping drive home the turn Quoi takes over the course of the issue.

The most surprising thing to me about this issue was just how much I enjoyed it. I was skeptical going in of an issue focused on this version of Swordsman, but the focus on the relationship between he and Quoi, and on his importance to Quoi’s journey, was fascinating. It really goes to show that, in the hands of the right creative team, any character can sing.

Final Verdict: Buy. This book is an essential installment in the Empyre storyline, and a damn good read on top of it.

Lords of Empyre Swordsman
From Lords of Empyre: Swordsman #1

Rapid Rundown!

  • Avengers #35
    • The third part of this Moon Knight-centric arc is here… and this isn’t working for me at all. This initially seemed like a more standalone story but Jason Aaron is slowly threading this arc into his overall run, and it’s being handled quite deftly. The problems I have with this arc mostly concern the pacing. Three issues in, it just feels like this story is at a narrative standstill. There are some great Iron Man moments sprinkled throughout this issue, but it doesn’t make for a cohesive issue. —HW
  • Cable #3
    • Fans of Gerry Duggan’s Deadpool run will want to check this out, as Deadpool makes his Dawn of X debut right here. Or at least I think he does. Anyway, it was refreshing to see a Krakoan interact directly with a non-Krakoan character in this capacity. Each issue has been so wildly different yet contained, but there’s a solid, creepy narrative featuring the Order of X that I can’t wait to see continue. This was a funny and quick-moving issue, and another notch in Duggan’s impressive run in this world so far. —HW
  • Empyre: X-Men #4
    • Last week I wrote about how absolutely wild Empyre: X-Men has been, how it’s been three issues of bombast and just plain fun. This week Head of X Jonathan Hickman ties up the wreckage left by his fellow X-writers, and he does so with a complete change of pace, telling a story that’s small in scope and immensely touching while still wrapping up all the insanity of the three preceding issues. I didn’t expect this comic to make me feel feelings, but it did, and that’s not at all a bad thing. —JG
  • Spider-Woman #3
    • Jessica Drew’s latest adventure takes an unexpected trip in this issue, with some developments sure to intrigue longtime Spider-Woman fans. I’m not one of those, so I’m relying on Karla Pacheco and Pere Pérez to fill in the blanks next issue. Given how entertaining this series has been so far I’m certain they’re up for the task. Pérez and colorist Frank D’Armata in particular deserve praise for some stunning action sequences, particularly the visually striking scenes that have opened each issue of the series. I’m happily along for the ride on this book. —JG

Next week, a handful of Empyre tie-ins wrap their runs, and the Fantastic Four meet Galactus’s Antithesis!