Writers: Al Ewing, Dan Slott
Artist: Valerio Schiti
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Jim Cheung, Frank Martin
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
After months of pandemic-related postponement, Empyre #1—the official start of Marvel’s big summer event for 2020—is finally out in the world. Was it worth the wait?
Teased all the way back in December with the Incoming! one-shot, Empyre follows in the tradition of past Marvel events like Secret Invasion and War of the Realms (i.e. intergalactic invasions of Earth), so if you enjoyed those, you’ll probably be into what writers Al Ewing and Dan Slott are serving here. Following generations of warfare, the Kree and Skrull have united under their newly appointed emperor Hulkling (half-Kree, half-Skrull) to fight against a mutual enemy: the Cotati, a race of intelligent plant-like beings. When the Avengers and Fantastic Four get involved in their conflict, you’ve got the makings of an ambitious crossover event! (Which has, unfortunately, been largely scaled back due to current events.)
As someone who’s interested in massive, company-wide crossovers, I was already in the pocket for Empyre, but I was especially curious going in because it’s being partly helmed by Al Ewing, one of my favorite current writers under Marvel’s employ. Ewing is a real continuity geek and clearly loves invoking deep cuts from Marvel lore, which makes for some real fascinating story ideas. Who would’ve thought that Quoi, the largely ignored son of Swordsman and Mantis, would re-emerge as a major player in their big event for Summer 2020? Or that a beloved Young Avenger like Hulkling would not only feature in the very same event, but as its ostensible antagonist? On paper, Empyre is just everything I want to see in one of these major storylines, and the execution of issue one didn’t disappoint.
From Hulkling getting to be all badass with a big sword, to Ghost Rider piloting a possessed quinjet, to She-Hulk getting her own cosmic hammer to play with, there’s a lot happening in Empyre #1 that gives me reason to believe the rest of the event will be worth following. I will say the plotting of this first issue somewhat reiterates the same beats of an Avengers-centric zero issue that was published a few weeks back, but it also gives you enough context through narration and dialogue to jump right into this issue without necessarily having to catch up on anything else.
Valerio Schiti’s art also lives up to the hype, following up on years of quality work elsewhere at Marvel. Schiti isn’t necessarily the type of creator who would be given the reins on a high-priority title like Empyre, and having him draw the main series should hopefully do wonders for his notoriety, like how Pepe Larraz and R.B. Silva benefited from last year’s HOXPOX (coincidentally, their colorist Marte Gracia also provides colors here, in a similarly vibrant fashion).