The first issue of Empyre: Avengers was a refreshing side story that visited a sprawling cast of Avengers so readers could see how the larger Marvel universe was dealing with the Cotati invasion. However, as this series will run for three issues, the second issue had to thread these battles together into more of a compelling narrative in order to make this worth a read. Did Empyre: Avengers #2 pull it off?
Empyre: Avengers has a wide focus, which was good for the first issue, but it thankfully narrows down in this one to focus on two major stories: Luke Cage, the Vision, and Doctor Nemesis battling a newly radicalized Plantman in New York City's Central Park, while Shanna, under the influence of the Cotati, terrorizes her family, Black Knight, Scarlet Witch, and Doctor Voodoo in the Savage Land. Though Jim Zub's dialogue does lean a little bit toward the way Luke Cage was written in his earlier appearances, Zub remains one of Marvel's most consistent writers, delivering an action-packed issue with solid emotional beats. This could have been another issue of battles, but Zub anchored the narrative to these two showdowns and used the situations to explore the characters within to great effect.
The art in Empyre: Avengers #2 is every bit as good as the first issue, with Carlos Magno and Espen Grundetjern's pages creating an appealing style that is halfway between photorealism and the heightened superhero style that has become what readers expect from Marvel. Letter VC's Ariana Maher ties it all together with the trademark Marvel lettering style as well. All in all, it's a great-looking book that benefits from its character-based narrative.
It ends with what seems to be a shocking loss… but of course, this is a Marvel comic. A death on the last page of an issue might mean a quick healing or resurrection on the first page of the next, but if not… out.