Empyre, Marvel's summer event that saw the Cotati launch a plant-based invasion on Earth, is nearing the end. In the fifth issue of this event co-plotted by Al Ewing and Dan Slott, which comes on the heels of three major reveals in the last installment, how will the Marvel heroes make their last stand? Empyre #5 sets the stage for the end.
My previous reviews have called Empyre "Marvel's worst event," but my first impression of Empyre #5 is that it does a great deal of course correction. The early issues of the event saw Marvel icons acting out of character to facilitate the plot, but Empyre #5 is the first time that the book seems to slow down and let characters get their time to shine. Empyre #4 was the start of this, it seemed, as the villains were given scenes that painted a more nuanced picture of them, but here, Wiccan, Hulkling, Black Panther, and especially the Thing shine. Ben Grimm is given here what could be a character-defining moment, far and away the best character beat in all of Empyre, as he faces off against the monster that has taken over She Hulk's body. Ewing shows that, given the time, he can create those memorable character moments that make these events the thrilling, emotional ride they have been in the past. If the quality of the build-up matched that of the payoff, Empyre would be an event to remember.
The art team of Valerio Schiti, Marte Gracia, and letterer VC's Joe Caramagna continue to make this book one of the best-looking superhero comics on shelves. As the focus shifts to the characters in Empyre #5, they handle the interaction between the heroes with as much expertise as their bombastic action scenes.
Fans of Young Avengers will be particularly fond of the opening scene, which continues on with the marriage reveal at the end of the previous issue. All in all, Empyre #5 is far and away from the best installment of the series.