As a result of changes in publishing due to COVID-19, the X of Swords event ended up delayed, forcing me to look for another summer crossover to satisfy that need for an epic comic blockbuster. While I enjoyed the individual issues in the main Empyre arc, I ultimately felt unsatisfied by the event. It felt as though I was missing some key details that were assumed in the narrative or buried in spinoff books and other supplementary material. Chances are, if I had picked up the three issues reprinted in Road to Empyre, I may have felt more engaged with the galactic-focused experience.
The weakest issue in the collection is Incoming, which acts as a single-issue recap of events happening elsewhere in the Marvel Universe. Narratively, the entire point of this issue could exist as a single page summary at the start of the main event, but it does provide an abundance of artistic style with more than a dozen artists given a few pages each. While the issue serves little purpose beyond reviewing central events, it’s a worthwhile piece if you want to see a sampling of the creative talent currently working at Marvel.
The Road to Empyre: The Kree/Skrull War was the comic I should have read prior to jumping into the miniseries. Writer Robbie Thompson successfully continues from the prior Meet the Skulls series from 2019, giving past events in Skrull history a revisionist take, humanizing the species that was often treated as no more than stock evil villains in their early appearances. I especially love the art, with Mattia De Lulis providing stunning, realistic visuals to the main story and Javier Rodriguez crafting the flashback sequences with an ode to the Kirby-styled art. Frankly, this issue should be included in the main Empyre trade to help give those issues necessary context.
Lastly, we have the Empyre Handbook packed in at the end. This issue is a throwback to the text-heavy handbooks Marvel used to publish in the 1980s, giving new readers an encyclopedia of sorts for the universe. These types of books have fallen out of favor in the modern internet era, but I cherished these manuals when I was young, and found this issue to be helpful in filling in character info that escaped me. While it’s possible to read Empyre without all this historical context, it surely helps a novice reader get the full scale of the arc and its impact.
The trade ends with a collection of variant covers, something I appreciate when picking up a trade that I hope acts as a “complete” collection. Overall, it’s an odds-and-ends assortment of issues that are helpful in filling in plot elements related to Empyre, but ultimately it would have been better to have these issues published with the main collection.
Much like some of the Marvel Milestone books, which often include issues not connected to a specific event being republished but provide necessary context, this collection would be better served with the main course alongside it.
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