We are past the halfway point in the 6-part Empyre series this week, and things are heating up. Marvel.com released an unlettered preview revealing a shady looking Hulkling and an all-out battle in Wakanda. As the battle rages on Earth, surprise twists change the tide of the war on both sides of the fight, and a major revelation is revealed about a key hero. Did Al Ewing tip his hand in the Comic-Con@Home panel? I think yes!
This issue consists of two primary locations, spreading out the action and allowing Ewing and Dan Slott to cut away and back again to critical moments. The first is in space where Hulkling and his people prepare their first strike now that the Cotati have taken the war to the Earth. The second is where Quoi resides on Earth as he waits for his army to break through Wakanda defenses so that he may enact his plan in Vibranium fertile soil. These central locations help to center the book where the main forces for good and evil reside. The problem is, both corners have a little good and a little evil lurking.
Pacing is well done with story beats, but also the visuals too. There are standout moments throughout — Valerio Schiti will have you looking at Super-Skrull differently from here on out — with the Black Panther double page layout taking the cake. Even still, it’s not all war, as there is good body-horror to be found in this book too. You’ll feel for Wiccan with the full-page splash that ends the book. Adding to this quality is Marte Gracia who always seems to find the right mix of outlandish color schemes that add atmosphere and wow-factor.
Much like the last issue, this issue’s focal points are the big twists. I’ll save from spoiling them, but they do add ample surprise and a right amount of chaos to add to the already chaotic war going on. Surrounding each helps move the plot forward, too.
Quoi, the leader of the Cotati, may be the most interesting character in this book. He’s unaware of a significant advantage that is revealed two-thirds through the book. His Lords of Empyre tie-in developed him well, and I highly recommend reading that along with this issue. Together, they help convey the complexity of his situation and the humanity of the character.
There are cut-aways to Iron Man’s guilt party at the Avengers headquarters and to a bedroom where a few heroes attempt to figure things out with Wiccan. Both scenes add ample humanity to the struggle familiar superheroes are going through. The use of Wiccan is particularly good, and it tethers the main narrative to the love story that was laid out well in Lords of Empyre: Emperor Hulkling.
My major gripe is the cliffhanger splash page, which means well and makes sense, but also feels randomly inserted. It serves as a reminder of deep love but doesn’t connect perfectly with the scene that leads into it. It’s sort of like an exclamation point on Wiccan and Hulkling’s relationship rather than proof of Wiccan’s theory. It may also feel oddly placed since an advertising page (if you’re reading it in physical form) splits up the set up and then the reveal. It’s a key moment though and it’ll have many talking.
I continue to like this event thanks to its spot-on pace and great art that seems to find a way to dazzle on every single page. The grand schemes of this event tie to so many heroes, and so much Avengers history that you’ll be hard-pressed not to enjoy its magnitude. Plus, it comes out weekly with very little wait time. Empyre #4 delivers as it goes against your expectations.
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