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). An Event Crossover tries to entice readers by being "an event," something that will really change the characters or the world around them. The increase in Event Crossovers to increase sales is typical because fans want stories that "matter" and Event Crossovers promise that, even when they don't deliver. When going into an Event Crossover, the main things to hope to be left with as a reader are, something happened, characters act in ways that make sense for the story, and the art is enjoyable to look at. It isn't the highest bar to get over. Yet, some Event Crossovers exceed those expectations, many don't, and how much enjoyment a reader gets from a reading experience like this varies reader to reader.
Last week Empyre Avengers #0 was launched, providing a summary of many of the past events related to Empyre as an Event Crossover, setting the stage for the event, and giving some very pretty artwork to look at. The Empyre event is billed as an Avengers / Fantastic Four Event Crossover, so last week provided the Avengers part of the prologue for this event, and on July 8th we get the Fantastic Four part. As the lead-in to "the next big thing," how does Empyre Fantastic Four #0 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, these events at best only serve as the background for Empyre Fantastic Four #0. The issue begins after Fantastic Four #20. Still, it seems to pick up strangely after another long space voyage (which is odd because the Fantastic Four were just on a deep space adventure from Fantastic Four #14 – #19), and this time they've brought along Franklin and Valeria Richards (Powerhouse and Brainstorm). While trying to get back home, the Fantastic Four run out of fuel and now have to barter the Thing's services. They become involved trying to stop the Elder of the Universe, the Profiteer, from using Kree child, Jo-Venn, and Skrull child, N'Kalla, from continuing the Kree/Skrull War. The Profiteer, of course, has other ideas, with her profits sagging with no conflict as the end of the Kree/Skrull War has left the universe with no unified monetary system. There is a lot to absorb in this issue, but overall the details have very little to do with Empyre as a crossover in general.
Dan Slott and R.B. Silva Create a Distracting Detour
With so much history to pick from, Dan Slott references a few critical moments in the Fantastic Four's history trying to the Kree/Skrull War, and the Incoming #1 one-shot from the end of 2019. This issue requires little or no reading of other stories before plunging in, and overall is a fun Fantastic Four adventure. However, when you weigh it against what Empyre is about and what Empyre Avengers #0 did, Empyre Fantastic Four #0 feels pointless. The first four pages of Empyre #1 do a better job establishing the role of the Fantastic Four in the Empyre crossover then this entire issue does.
Dan Slott does LITTLE in 30 pages. In rereading this comic, I realized how much I could skip over and not be missing anything. It isn't that Dan Slott doesn't have a depth of knowledge of the Marvel Universe rivaling Al Ewing, but he doesn't use it, merely focusing on one past event relating to the Kree and the Skrull from the Fantastic Four's history. This is odd since when thinking back to the history of both races, the simple fact is Fantastic Four is essential to understanding the Kree and Skrull in the Marvel Universe. Both races debuted in the pages of the Fantastic Four, and the Kree/Skrull war has played the background in several critical Fantastic Four events. The Skrulls have been the villains in so many Fantastic Four comics that it makes sense that Empyre is a Fantastic Four event. Yet, Dan Slott does next to nothing to set up Empyre, especially in comparison to Al Ewing, and that rich history is barely felt in this issue.
This comic is a cute story and does introduce the Marvel Universe to the Profiteer. However, the character feels so derivative of the Grandmaster, of whom she is supposedly the sister of. This makes little sense in terms of the Elders of the Universe since they are supposed to be the "last survivor of their races," this is why Death has spared them. We don't know enough to know from this issue if she is a true Elder, but her first appearance is a complete distraction from Empyre as a story. Dan Slott continues to show he KNOWS the Fantastic Four and writes them all extremely well and completely in character. He has made Franklin and Valeria into fully fleshed-out characters, and his Thing dialogue is fantastic. Slott also makes Reed and Sue read as a great couple in every interaction, and they act as believable parents on top of that. However, he's done all of this in the Fantastic Four over 20 issues, and Empyre Fantastic Four #0 just reads like it is Fantastic Four #21.
On the other hand, R. B. Silva delivers on some fantastic art, giving the issue some weight the plot doesn't. Hand in hand with Pere Larraz, R.B. Silva brought us House of X/Powers of X, and the artwork here shows a great love of action. The comic works best artwise when the characters are not just talking, but are fighting, or dealing with danger. However, the design work that R.B. Silva did for the Profiteer's Casino, and the aliens present, deserves a lot of praise. All of it is new to the Marvel Universe, and his design sense is a great pleasure to look at.
Empyre Fantastic Four #0, Skip It
As the "start" to an Event Crossover, this issue should be judged for good characterization, which it has, enjoyable artwork, also present, and that something actually happened. On this last point, this issue fails miserably. The story begins with little attention given to how we got there, gives almost no lead-in to the crossover it is named after and reads like a very generic story that most won't remember. It isn't a horrible read, but nothing happens in relation to the overall Empyre story or crossover, which, when you are set up to be a prelude to the said story, is an unforgivable comic book sin.