Marvel has become over the years the House of Events, more than the House of Ideas that it once claimed to be. There are usually at least four to five Event Crossovers (series that are significant "event storylines" that are separate from regular ongoings and serve as the "backbone" of the story, which then has tie-in crossovers such as other series or crossovers with regular monthlies). Every comic fan has heard of and probably read at least a few of them, if not a lot of them. All Event Crossovers are as good or bad as what they accomplish, and who is working on them, and "event fatigue" is a very real thing with these kinds of stories. However, fans keep buying them because they worry about being left out of a story that will "change everything." When going into an Event Crossover, then the main things to hope to be left with as a reader are, something actually happened, characters act in ways that makes sense for the story, and the art is enjoyable to look at. It isn't a huge bar, and some Event Crossovers exceed those expectations, many don't, and a lot of the enjoyment one gets from this kind of comic really differs fan to fan.
Marvel has several of these Event Crossovers planned for 2020, well had planned. After the Diamond hiatus and the slow restart to get back to publishing, books scheduled for April may not see print until September, maybe later. By this point in the publishing year, Marvel probably hoped to have us two Event Crossovers deep and building toward the "next big thing." Empyre, originally scheduled to begin on April 1st with Empyre #0: Avengers and Empyre #0 Fantastic Four, is now starting June 24th with Empyre #0: Avengers and Empyre #0: Fantastic Four to follow the next week, and then Empyre #1 the week after that. As the lead-in to "the next big thing," how does Empyre #0: Avengers do as a book?
Spoilers ahead, you have been warned!
So, What is Empyre About?
Well way back at the very end of 2019, and doesn't that seem like a long time ago, Incoming #1 was published teasing a lot of "incoming" plots for the whole Marvel Universe. Mainly an Al Ewing book, Incoming #1 showed us the Kree and Skrull were uniting under the original Kree Captain Marvel's son with a Skrull princess, the super-hero Hulkling. What he was uniting these two age-old enemies to do, though, was the question, and why it was something near or on Earth was the big plot point.
However, the introduction in the first few pages of Empyre #0: Avengers shows us the center of the upcoming conflict through Iron Man's dreams. The massacre of the Cotati by the Kree long ago on Earth's moon, led to their long war with Skrulls, something that Marvel has been showing us different sides of for decades. One can go back to the original Kree/Skrull war in Avengers, to Galactus eating the Skrull homeworld in Fantastic Four, to a Skrull becoming the Kree Supreme Leader in Silver Surfer, the Kree versus the Shiar Empire in Operation Galactic Storm, the Skrull invading Earth in Secret Invasion, there are a lot of stories to pick from. Empyre #0: Avengers though sets up a simple conflict (so it seems) as the premise of this series in its 30 pages.
Al Ewing and Pepe Larraz Create a Great Introduction
With so much history to pick from, Al Ewing does some deep cuts into Marvel continuity. Referencing the Celestial Madonna saga, having the Avengers battle a Sentry merged with some weird growth, reintroducing the Cotati Swordsman, and the Cotati leader, the child of Mantis, Sequoia. (Though he insists on Quoi to his friends … how cute. Also, if you have no idea who he is, read Avengers Celestial Quest, great story, and the back issues are probably going to jump up some after this hits the stands.) Al Ewing does A LOT in 30 pages. In rereading this comic, I realized there were a lot of references Ewing casually makes in dialogue that I didn't catch. The depth of his Marvel Comics knowledge is comprehensive, as any reader of his Ultimates or Immortal Hulk knows. Still, this issue really shows it off, but in a very story-driven way that doesn't lose a reader with "recapping" dialogue. Ewing also works in just enough action, with the Avengers battling the Sentry that the book doesn't feel "boring," and the constant shift to different parts of the Blue Area of the Moon gives the book a lot of movement.
Pepe Larraz though, is the one who really gives the book movement and flow. From the Avengers launching into space to go to the moon, to the Sentry battle, to the Swordsman's return, to Thor helping the Cotati influence on the moon grow into a true "kingdom" by commanding the storm to "let fall the rain!" Larraz gives us a lot of great art choices. Larraz's pencils have great action, and none of the scenes look boring, with each character looking precisely right, and reintroduced characters looking similar but fresh. The issue is very enjoyable to look at, and I'm not surprised at all that Marvel brought him on to this book after House of X.
Empyre #0: Avengers Delivers A Solid Beginning for an Event Crossover
So great art, good writing, but are the characters in character? Well, considering where the Marvel Universe is right now, Iron Man seems to be where he is during Jason Aaron's run on Avengers but in relation to Iron Man 2020? Who knows, but he acts like the Tony Stark we expect, and one that is properly the Marvel Universe Tony Stark with some influence from the MCU. Many of the lines Tony says in this issue roll out like Robert Downy Jr. noted them. Thor seems to be from after Donny Cates' first arc; hence no metal arm and everyone else fits just fine with what is going on currently in the Marvel Universe.
That just leaves this book to be judged by a straightforward facet in launching a large Event Crossover, does something actually happen? The simple answer is yes, the Avengers reunite with the Cotati and help them become a more powerful force in order to face the invading Kree / Skrull armada led by Hulkling. This issue firmly sets up what seems to be the central conflict for Emypre, the Avengers, and Cotati against the invading Skrull / Kree armada. In addition, a close reading of this issue will give any reader the sense that something is "not what it seems" here, and the foreshadowing Ewing does with this issue for Empyre #1 is another big reason to read this book. This comic reads as a fantastic introduction to Empyre gives a lot of information without making it feel stilled and sets up a desire to read Empyre #1. I wish Empyre #0: Fantastic Four did the same, but that's a review for next week.