After a delayed start and some scaling back, Marvel’s latest crossover event concludes with this week’s Empyre #6. But does it stick the landing?
While there’s never a good time for a pandemic to hit, COVID-19 really messed up Marvel’s plans for Empyre, their big summer event for 2020. When it finally did launch in July—a full three months later than intended—it also came with the news that roughly a third of the announced tie-ins had been culled from the schedule with no plans to complete or release them. Even if event tie-ins vary in terms of quality and importance, that’s a big chunk of revenue that Marvel was likely counting on earning this year, not to mention the wasted time and efforts of all the creators involved in making them. Every industry has been roiled by the pandemic, but the comics industry in particular has been hit hard by it. It’s hard enough to work in comics in good times, let alone during a global health crisis. The fact that Empyre has mostly come out of COVID unscathed and progressed to completion shouldn’t be overlooked. With that being said, we should probably talk about the issue itself and Empyre as a whole.
After months of buildup, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four finally became entrenched in some good ol’ cosmic warfare between the newly formed Kree-Skrull Empire and their adversaries, the plantlike Cotati. As with any crossover event worth their weight, twists and turns have come aplenty. The Kree-Skrulls aren’t the bad guys! The Cotati are the bad guys! But also (Emperor) Hulkling’s grandma is really pulling the strings! Hulkling and Wiccan secretly got married?! Something weird’s going on with She-Hulk? Mr. Fantastic gets his own Iron Man suit! So really, it’s just been another week in the Marvel Universe.
With all that being said, however, Empyre has felt like it’s been lacking something, but I can’t really put a finger on it. There’s definitely things I’ve liked about it, particularly putting Hulkling and Wiccan at the center of such a big storyline with huge ramifications for them both, but a lot of the action depicted within comes across as boilerplate superhero stuff that co-writer Al Ewing usually transcends and elevates. It doesn’t help that the Cotati, an obscure alien race with long-running ties to the Avengers, rarely feel like the threat we’re told they are. There’s been some good body horror stuff involving their plant-y powers, but they aren’t a match for either the Kree or the Skrulls in terms of impact. Again, I appreciate how they found a different adversary for the good guys as opposed to tapping from the same well over and over again, but the execution left a little to be desired for me as a whole. Valerio Schiti’s art, however, is lovely as always, and if anything, I just wish he had an opportunity to draw some really interesting and out-there stuff, rather than what you would expect from a storyline like this.
Empyre #6 also suffers from a problem that’s common with these big event stories: the ending isn’t really an ending, or at least a satisfying one. Once the bad guys have been defeated and dealt with, the issue comes to an abrupt halt without much falling action or time to reflect on the events that have transpired (we do get a badass superhero pose of Hulkling and Wiccan flanked by their allies, which is welcome. #LoveWins). Presumably we’ll get both of those things in the two “aftermath” issues coming next week. And it’s not so much a knock on this issue specifically as it is at the method of superhero storytelling in our current era, but readers shouldn’t have to seek out a proper ending outside of the series they’re told has just ended. Food for thought! Empyre #6 isn’t bad by any means, and I’ve enjoyed reading it week to week, but I think it could’ve been more than it ended up being.
- Writer: Al Ewing (story and script), Dan Slott (story)
- Artist: Valerio Schiti
- Colorist: Marte Gracia
- Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
- Cover Artists: Jim Cheung, Jay David Ramos
- Editor: Tom Brevoort
- Publisher: Marvel Entertainment