Marvel Comics had the very smart idea to make two one-shot stories titled Lords of Empyre to feature the different leaders of the war in their big event Empyre. The Hulkling one-shot shed a lot of light on the character and how he got into the Empyre event. Now it’s time for a deep dive into Quoi and his place in the war. Considering he’s the arch-villain of the series–and was once a close ally to the Avengers–he’s got a lot of explaining to do.
Similar to Anthony Oliveira, Chip Zdarsky, and Manuel Garcia’s Hulkling Lords of Empyre one-shot, Alex Paknadel and Alex Lins give an interesting and complex look at their protagonist. He just so happens to be the bastard who wants to kill all non-plant life. As the preview shows, this book is all about Quoi and his relationship with his mother Mantis. I knew very little about this character, let alone his father Swordsman, and was enlightened by reading this book. In fact, I wish it came out even sooner to help fill us in on the character. Since it takes place on the moon before Quoi heads to Earth, it likely could have come out sooner, but alas here we are.
As the story goes, this book is plotted well, jumping back and forth between flashbacks in Quoi’s childhood and the present where he must confront the form of his mother. This is steeped in Avengers history as a means to show Quoi has been living in the shadow of his parents for some time. Their actions have led him here and it’s not very fair. Yes, he’s still quite evil, but you can connect with him on some level due to the unfortunate position he’s in. There is a key moment in his childhood that also helps inform the fact that Quoi is not born evil and can change. If he can after all this remains to be seen, but it makes you wonder if he is rejecting his position to be better because of the position his parents put him in.
This issue also further puts Mantis into a position of importance. It’s a character I’ve frankly never thought about much, but I’m not pondering how important she’ll be to this event and the future of Marvel Comics. The power of this one-shot informs not only Quoi, but Mantis, further cementing its need to be read.
One unfortunate element of the book is the difficult task of maintaining Quoi’s evil while also humanizing him. How can you show he’s a redeemable character while he’s currently trying to kill all non-plant life in the galaxy? You can tell these two things rub together in the issue, making it feel not so genuine in parts or simply making you think it’s forcing one or the other. Ultimately, though, I think it does enough.
The art by Lins with colors by Matt Yackey is good, especially in how it changes the look of the present and the flashbacks. Lins does an exceptional job creating an old-school look to the flashbacks and the art is a bit muted to further distinguish it from the present. There are interesting plant-based style choices throughout, too. A full-page spread of Mantis dividing the page with her limbs for one, and in another, green tendrils making up the panels.
Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah has the difficult task of humanizing Quoi while also reminding us he’s the villain we’re rooting against. There’s just enough here to seed his redemption and make him much more complex than the main-line event could ever do. Read this for a full primer on the main villain of Empyre and to get a clearer sense of how deep Avengers history goes into the roots of this event.