Empyre: Avengers #1 gave me hope for a little more context as far as the war on Earth in Empyre goes. It turns out the main event has done a good job in the last two issues to show us that, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get a little more context as far as major players on the Avengers. This second issue continues to show how the war has split up some of the most powerful heroes on the Avengers, but at what cost to the reader who has a thin wallet? The answer may surprise you.
It’s starting to feel like Marvel Comics axing a bunch of Empyre tie-in stories, however tragic that is for creators who need the work, is helping the story. Empyre #5 is stronger for the weekly schedule and lack of tie-in stories that add little to the main book. This issue continues that trend, as it just doesn’t feel necessary.
The story is split between three locations: Central Park, Mexico, and the Savage Land. Each location has different kinds of battles going on, which is a good reason the Avengers are spread so thin. Over in Central Park, Luke Cage, Vision, and Doctor Nemesis are taking on a classic plant villain, while Wonder Man, Mockingbird, and Quicksilver are tangling with Kree and Skrull soldiers. These two stories are possibly the most interesting, but get the least amount of time. The Central Park story feels like it matters since civilians are nearby and it uses higher-level heroes, while the Mexico plot has more interesting characters who had fresher dialogue in issue #1.
The book also opens with a well crafted three-panel page showing the war raging elsewhere. If the book’s intention is to show us this and prove the war is raging in lots of places, it has succeeded. Outside of this, though, the book isn’t very interesting.
The main chunk of the book is devoted to the Savage Land where Scarlet Witch, Doctor Voodoo, Black Knight, and Ka-Zar are investigating an energy surge that ended up being Man-Thing. I can’t say I have much interest in Ka-Zar, his son, or the adventures we rarely see in the Savage Land, but I really did try. Unfortunately, this scene plays out with one power move after another that doesn’t add up to much. It’s circular and allows the characters to show off their powers, but there are little stakes beyond avoiding death.
The art is rather good in a photorealistic way. Carlos Magno goes hard on the detailing, from little wrinkles in faces and hands to every piece of chainmail in Black Knight’s costume. Because it’s so photorealistic it can falter a bit, but overall it’s great. There are also some good renderings of Cotati soldiers that help convey a sense of culture to their people. Overlaid on all this is color art by Espen Grundetjern, who backs up the pencils with realistic looking skin tones. The book in general has a vibe that’s more realistic and muted and less cartoony. Again, that suits Magno’s pencils.
I want to care about this book, but unfortunately, it focuses mostly on a group of B-tier heroes in an adventure that seems to go nowhere. It’s unfortunate writers like Jim Zub didn’t have the opportunity to take back heroes that had tie-in books dropped, since Thor could have been far more interesting in a story like this. That said, there’s a lack of drive to the story and it feels quite unnecessary.