Empyre didn’t start with the “bang” you’d expect from a major event series. But the opening installment still hooked readers in by setting up a compelling conflict between Marvel’s mightiest heroes and a new deadly threat. Unfortunately, this positive momentum doesn’t continue in Empyre #2, on sale July 22, because script writer Dan Slott drags the issue down with excessive exposition. Throughout its second chapter, Empyre spins its wheels and fails to reach the next level.
Story: Al Ewing & Dan Slott
Script: Al Ewing
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Color Artist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
In the event’s premiere, Slott presented Quoi, the Cotati’s mysterious messiah, as a sympathetic leader. But now we’re beginning to see that Quoi is a vengeful, bloodthirsty commander, and the depths of his cruelty become quite clear in Empyre #2. Through a lengthy monologue, Slott shows us that Quoi will stop at nothing to avenge his people. Parts of this speech are entertaining, and Slott’s moving dialogue is right out of a movie. “For the good of all life, they had to be purged, their grotesque sins against us redeemed…in death,” Quoi says. The Avengers’ newest villain comes off like a slightly campier version of Thanos; you can trace his logic, and though their flaws are just as obvious, Quoi’s motives are far from unreasonable. But Slott loses himself in this characterization; he slogs through several flashbacks that expand on the history lesson of the Kree, the Skrull, and the Cotati that dominated Empyre #1. As a result, this issue doesn’t move the event forward in a meaningful way; instead, it’s just a filler installment that leaves us feeling pessimistic about the series’ future.
We’ve already compared Quoi to Thanos, and it’d be a stretch to consider Empyre an >Avengers: Endgame-like event. But Slott and the art team still provide several cinematic moments that somewhat make up for the disappointing story. First, the Avengers’ big three take center stage and fittingly look like gods when they stand up to Quoi. After they break free of the messiah’s trap, artist Valerio Schiti gives Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor a freeze-frame moment. Schiti shows Thor smirking while he wields Mjolnir and both Captain America and Iron Man looking like they’re ready to kick some Cotati behind. Just a few panels later, the trio teleport to Earth, and Schiti and color artist Marte Gracia again deliver a moment that will give Avengers fans chills. The big three stand together, partially silhouetted as they’re engulfed by the Bifrost Bridge’s brilliant rainbow. All three members of the trio have unshakable resolve written all over their faces, adding to the image’s heroic tone. Time and again, the art team makes the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes live up to their name.
Empyre #2 is a disappointing follow-up to what had been a compelling beginning to Marvel’s latest epic event. Of course, it’s far to early to give up on this series. But after this letdown, the third installment will have a lot of work to do if it hopes to recapture the reader’s interest.
What did you think of Empyre #2? Check out your local comic shop to see if you can get it there, or consider buying the comic online. Are you enjoying the event so far?