The villains of Empyre have been anything but subtle. While there is, of course, history between the Avengers and Quoi, the eponymous Celestian Messiah of this issue, the main Empyre event under Al Ewing's pen doesn't do much to show the depth of this character. Will Quoi's own title, Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah, shed some light on the Cotati villain or will he continue to be a mustache(vine?)-twirling war monger?
Alex Paknadel writes Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah, which sees Quoi go through a trial before the events of Empyre. His trial is hijacked telepathically by his mother Mantis, who reaches out to him in attempted to get through to him. She shows him his history through her own perspective, and their interaction does more to flesh out this character than expected. It tells a good story in and of itself, while also enriching the character's role in Empyre. While Empyre itself didn't evoke these feelings, Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah develops Quoi well enough that he feels, here, like the inverse of Hulkling: Hulking (at least we thought) takes his role as leader of the Kree/Skrull army in order to save the two races, while Quoi accepts his leadership position about the Cotati for vengeance and supremacy.
Paknadel's story is emotional and gripping, and the artwork from artist Alex Lins, colorist Matt Yackey, and letterer VC's Ariana Maher matches the tone with skill and creativity. The flashback stories look like a vintage comic while also still evoking a hazy, dreamlike quality that is shattered every time Quoi shakes himself out of Mantis's narrative. Spider-Man: Sins Rising actually just did something similar, but it's pulled off here with incredible integration into the story so the reader feels as if they are on this journey with Quoi.
Quoi the Celestial Messiah might come off as a straight up villain in Empyre, but this one-shot bends over backwards to build his character up, and Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah #1 succeeds completely.