The next “Lords of Empyre” story is here from Marvel Comics, continuing the trend of shedding light on the leaders of the Marvel summer event Empyre. In the latest, Alex Paknadel continues his story from the Celestial Messiah issue revealing more about Quoi, and a lot of it has to do with his father, Swordsman. It’s also a story about the relationship between a son and his father, and one that does well to capture the complexities of such a relationship in the face of being a “savior” of a people.
This story builds on Celestiah Messiah to show how Quoi, the “villain” of Empyre, has gotten to the place he is now in the event. Taking place before the event, we see Quoi is in fact peaceful with all creatures. This issue serves as a means to see what created the anger in Quoi to do something about the mammal problem and rise up to the call of being the Messiah.
It’s not really about him though, as it’s focusing on the complicated nature of Swordsman. Now both planet and human, the character lives a strange life harboring two identities. Paknadel does a good job building on this particular person, which is driven home by his desire to become one with plants and no longer be this strange combo. It’s in this desire to become more plant than person that drives the major conflict of the issue, and further shows how Quoi wants to end humanity. From the standpoint of father and son, Paknadel does a great job showing how a child might see their parents in pain and react in an irrational way. He wants to end his father’s pain, and seeing him in pain while humans commit a terrible act in this issue gives purpose to his choices in the main event.
I did find the change in Quoi a bit sudden, a common thing in 20-page comics, which reduces the believability of his switch from “protect all life” to “screw humans.” As just a boy, one could surmise he hasn’t lived long enough to know what he does, but it still feels sudden and unearned to see his switch.
The art by Thomas Nachlik, with colors by Marcio Menyz, had to have been picked for their ability to draw detailed plant life and environments. It suits the plot, the characters aim to save important trees, and it makes the plant life feel more real. There’s a wonderful double-page spread using four panels across the page to show time passing. It brings a calmness as we know time has to be going slowly, and yet Quoi sits waiting. It also gives Quoi a sense of zen calm that is a big part of his character, or at least it was before he got real angry.
Lords of Empyre: Swordsman is a good look at a father and son dynamic we don’t often see in comics. There isn’t quite enough here to make it totally believable, but I find the approach admirable and I’m looking forward to seeing Paknadel do more, possibly in a longer format, as he’s clearly skilled at touching on genuine human emotion and interactions. As it stands, this issue continues to inform readers of how Quoi got here and why the villain in the story is actually relatable.