I don’t know if you know this, but comic books can be outlandishly fun. They’re capable of telling stories you can’t tell in any other format, can deliver more fan service in one issue than an entire TV series, and they can look cool every panel of the way. Empyre: X-Men #3 is an example of this.
This book has it all, starting with zombies, lots of crazy twists, and badass action movie one-liners. It all kicked off with an enjoyable first issue, although by this third one it’s feeling very different. Quentin Quire at one point shouts, “Psychics, mount up!” and I can’t help but think that’s the coolest thing ever. It feels like Michael Bay took care of the action scenes in this book — they’re explosive and stylized. It also has the sensibilities of horror with gross-out bits (look away if you’re a Multiple Man fan!), and plenty of gnarly looking zombies.
This is definitely a comic you need to turn your brain off to truly enjoy. Fan service is turned up to 11 and there are plenty of fun reaction shots and surprises layered into the book as well. I can only imagine the fun the writing team of Vita Ayala, Ed Brisson, and Zeb Wells had when concocting this book. This is pure escapism action nonsense and it’s hugely entertaining.
It’s not all nonsense, though — the book features some impactful moments for key characters. Magik fans will need to read this for instance, but also Nightcrawler fans too. The cliffhanger adds a new layer to the Empyre event — a monster not one side of this war wants to see, further proving the X-Men clean up the messes of the mainline heroes. I also love how self-aware the book is, like in one moment where a character talks some logical sense into Magik whose main plan appears to be slashing at baddies forever.
The art is pretty damn good too. I’m not usually a fan of a single series changing artists with each issue, but it doesn’t hurt too much here since it’s balls to the wall action and escapist fun. Andrea Broccardo draws this issue with Nolan Woodard on colors, and they do an exceptional job rendering the X-Men characters as well as the bad guys who are mostly gross-out fun.
The panel with Quentin shouting “Mount up!” is like a movie poster which is likely the effect of the size of the characters and blending of a giant Quentin with other characters. It’s pure bombast and it’s relishing the moment. Further, Beast’s lab looks detailed, cool, and believable, and you’ll get a crack out of Mr. Sinister’s armor, which reminds us of the abilities of Krakoa. Comedic elements and reaction shots all help increase tension or anticipation, further making the book feel like a rollercoaster ride of nonstop action.
This is also a great example of how chaotic action on a battlefield can work. For the most part, Empyre hasn’t quite felt like the all-out war it’s pitched as, but here you get the idea these characters are surrounded and fighting for their lives every step of the way. The clean art helps keep things easy to follow, but the details and various panels with many enemies in them don’t let us forget danger is all around.
Empyre: X-Men has the humor and self-awareness of Shaun of the Dead, the intensity of Lone Survivor, and the monster madness of Hellboy. Simply put, this is summertime blockbuster escapism in the style of X-Men.