Empyre #1 launches next week. With the Kree and Skrulls united behind one leader, the Kree/Skrull hybrid Hulkling (son of the original Captain Marvel) and on their way to fight the Cotati on Earth's Blue Area of the Moon, there is a lot of Marvel history that lead here, A LOT. Going all the way back to the beginning of the modern Marvel Universe (literally the second comic published), we're going to look at what someone should read to get fully caught up, with the essential and some recommended reads. Marvel has made some recommendations on what to look at, but is that everything?
(Individual issues are listed. There are a lot of trades that reprint parts of these stories, or full arcs of these stories, and some are in print, some are long out of print, some are online on Comixology, or available from Marvel. If you want to read these issues, find a trade that contains them, or search online.)
The list starts with the year the issue or issues were published and then goes issue by issue in reading order. How important it is to upcoming events is noted afterward and reflects the issues relation to Empyre, not the quality of the story.
Spoilers for Empyre #1 do follow…
The Beginnings of the Kree and the Skrull Empires
1962: The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #2 – The second issue published of the modern Marvel Universe and the introduction of the Skrulls as invaders of Earth. After battling the Fantastic Four, the Skrull invaders get stuck as cows. (Essential)
1963: The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #13 – The first appearance of the Watcher (Uatu) and his home on the Blue Area of the Moon. (Recommended)
The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #18 – The first appearance of the Super-Skrull (K'Lrt), as he attacks the Fantastic Four for the first time. (Essential)
1964: The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #32 – Franklin Storm, the father of the Invisible Woman and the Human Torch, is killed by Skrulls. (Recommended)
1965: The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #37 – The Fantastic Four first visit the Skrull Empire to gain revenge for the death of Franklin Storm, Princess Annelle is introduced and saved by the Invisible Woman from being killed. (Recommended)
The Avengers (Volume 1) #19 – The Swordsman is first introduced, starting as a villain sent to infiltrate the Avengers. (Essential)
1967: The Fantastic Four (Volume1) #64 – 65 – The first appearance of the robotic Kree Sentries, followed by the first appearances of the Supreme Intelligence (ruler of the Kree), Ronan the Accuser, and the Kree race itself. (Essential)
Marvel Super-Heroes (Volume 1) #12, #13, Captain Marvel (Volume 1) #1 – #4 – Introducing Captain Marvel (first version, the Kree Mar-Vell), Carol Danvers (the future and current Captain Marvel), and Carol have her first encounters with Mar-Vell and a Kree Sentry. These issues also introduce the idea that the Kree and Skrulls have been fighting for generations, though why isn't explained. (Essential)
The Kree / Skrull War!
1971: The Avengers (Volume 1) #89 – #97 – The Kree/Skrull War arc, Captain Marvel and Annelle conceive the future super-hero and Kree/Skrull emperor Hulkling during these issues. The Kree and the Skrulls fight the Avengers, the Fantastic Four become involved, and Rick Jones ends the war with the help of the Avengers and Captain Marvel. (Essential)
1973: The Avengers (Volume 1) #112, #113, #114 – Mantis is introduced and partners with the Swordsman, who falls in love with her. Mantis is the future "Celestial Madonna" as prophecy told by the Kree, who trained her. (Essential)
1974: The Avengers (Volume 1) #128, #129 / Giant-Size Avengers #2 / The Avengers (Volume 1) #130, #131, #132 / Giant-Size Avengers #3 / The Avengers (Volume 1) #133, #134, #135 / Giant-Size Avengers #4 – The Celestial Madonna arc as the Cotati are introduced, the origins of the Cotati/Kree war on the Blue Area of the Moon (as seen again in Empyre Avengers #0), the origins of the Kree/Skrull War, the Swordsman is killed and then reborn as a Cotati, Kang, and Immortus try to manipulate Mantis, and Mantis embraces becoming the new Celestial Madonna, marrying the Cotati Swordsman and becoming pregnant with the Celestial Messiah, Sequoia. (Essential)
1980: The Uncanny X-Men (Volume 1) #137 – The first appearance of the Kree warrior Bel-Dann & and the Skrull warrior Raksor, who has been sent to observe the Shi'ar punishing the X-Men for the actions of the Phoenix, on the Blue Area of the Moon. (Oh, and the Phoenix "dies".) (Essential)
The War Begins Again
1983: The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #257 – Galactus devours the Skrull homeworld, killing billions of Skrulls and Princess Annelle. (Essential)
The Fantastic Four Annual #17 – The Fantastic Four deal with the legacy of the Skrull Cows from way back in issue #2, whose byproducts are mutating humans. (Completest Reading Only)
1984: The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #265 – During the Secret Wars on the Beyonder's planet, Lyja, a Skrull spy, replaces Alicia Masters, the Thing's girlfriend, and first appears in this issue as Alicia. (Completest Reading Only)
The Fantastic Four Annual #18 – Bel-Dann & Raksor battle each other during the marriage of Black Bolt and Medusa, "defeating" the Fantastic Four and "ending" the Kree/Skrull War (referenced in Empyre Fantastic Four #0.) (Essential)
1985: The Fantastic Four Annual #19 / The Avengers Annual #14 – The Avengers and the Fantastic Four both end up battling the Skrulls through separate circumstances, and a gene bomb is detonated causing the Skrulls to lose shapeshifting abilities. (Recommended)
1987: The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #300 – The Human Torch and Lyja (still posing as Alicia Masters) get married. (Completest Reading Only)
Silver Surfer (Volume 1) #1 – #14, Silver Surfer Annual (Volume 1) #1, West Coast Avengers (Volume 2) #37, #38, #39, Silver Surfer (Volume 1) #15 – #20, The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #323, Silver Surfer (Volume 3) #21, #22, The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #324, #325, Silver Surfer (Volume 3) #23 – #31 – The Silver Surfer escapes Earth after being confined there by Galactus, Mantis returns, dies again, Galactus fights the Elders of the Universe, the Silver Surfer helps the Skrulls regain their shapeshifting abilities, a former Skrull spy becomes the new Kree Empress and restarts the Kree / Skrull War. (Recommended)
1990: The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #347 – 349 – The "New" Fantastic Four debuts with Wolverine and Spider-Man as members, due to a Skrull criminal. (Recommended)
1991: The Fantastic Four (Volume 1) #356, #357, #358 – Lyja is revealed as a Skrull spy, the Fantastic Four invades the Skrull Empire to regain Alicia Masters. (Completest Reading Only)
Operation Galactic Storm
1992: Operation Galactic Storm: Captain America (Volume 1) #398, Avengers West Coast #80, Quasar #32, Wonder Man #7, The Avengers (Volume 1) #345, Iron Man (Volume 1) #278, Thor (Volume 1) #445, Captain America (Volume 1) #399, Avengers West Coast #81, Quasar #33, Wonder Man #8, The Avengers (Volume 1) #346, Iron Man (Volume 1) #279, Thor (Volume 1) #446, Captain America (Volume 1) #400, Avengers West Coast #82, Quasar #34, Wonder Man #9, The Avengers (Volume 1) #347, Captain America (Volume 1) #401, Quasar #35, #36 – The Kree Empire is defeated in a war with the Shi'ar, and the Supreme Intelligence is "killed", as the Shi'ar end up ruling the Kree. (Essential)
2000: Maximum Security #1, #2, #3 – The Supreme Intelligence is revealed to be alive, as the alien empires of the Galaxy, including the Kree, Skrulls, and Shi'ar, try to turn Earth into a prison for humanity and aliens, and the Kree regain their empire. (Recommended)
2001: The Avengers: The Celestial Quest #1 – #8 – The Avengers journey into space with Mantis meeting Sequoi for the first time (referenced in Empyre Avengers #0). (Essential)
The Kree and Skrull Empires Fall Apart
2005: Young Avengers (Volume 1) #1 – #12 The first appearance of the Young Avengers team, including Hulkling and his future boyfriend Wiccan, gathered by a younger version of Kang, Iron Lad, who unifies the team to help Hulkling fight the Kree and Skrull empires who both want to claim him. (Essential)
2006: Annihilation Prologue #1, Annihilation #1 – #6 – The Skrull Empire is devastated during the Annihilation Wave. (Recommended)
2008: Secret Invasion #1 – #8 – Skrulls invade Earth. (Recommended)
2013: FCBD Infinity #1, Infinity #1 – #6 – Many alien empires work together with the Avengers to fight the Builders and Thanos, causing many aliens to look up and admire the Avengers. (Completest Reading Only)
2014: All-New Marvel Now #0.1, All-New Invaders #1 – #5 – The Invaders reunite as Tanalth debuts leading the Kree to try to regain a powerful artifact on Earth. (Essential)
Original Sin #0 – #8 – The Watcher dies, the Blue Area of the Moon is abandoned, and Nick Fury becomes the Unseen. (Completest Reading Only)
2015: The Black Vortex Crossover: The Black Vortex Alpha #1, Guardians of the Galaxy (Volume 3) #24, Legendary Star-Lord #9, All-New X-Men (Volume 1) #38, #39, Guardians Team-Up #3, Guardians of the Galaxy (Volume 3) #25, Nova (Volume 5) #28, Legendary Star-Lord #10, Cyclops (Volume 3) #12, Captain Marvel (Volume 8) #14, Legendary Star-Lord #11, The Black Vortex Omega #1 – The Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men become exposed to the ancient, powerful artifact the Black Vortex leading to the destruction of the Kree /Cotati homeworld of Hala. (Recommended)
Events Lead Up To Empyre
2018: The Avengers (Volume 8) #1 – #6 – Ghost Rider (Robbie Reyes) uses his hellfire to animate a Celestial. (Referenced in Empyre #1.) (Completest Reading Only)
2019: Meet The Skrulls #1 – #5 – Skrull sleeper agents, The Warners, are revealed on Earth. (Completest Reading Only)
2019: House of X #1, Powers of X #1, House of X #2, Powers of X #2, Powers of X #3, House of X #3, House of X #4, Powers of X #4, House of X #5, Powers of X #5, House of X #6, Powers of X #6 – Professor X gathers together all of mutant-kind on the sentient plant-based island Krakoa. (Recommended)
2019: Strikeforce #1 – #6 – Wiccan joins a secret team, without Hulkling. (Completest Reading Only)
2019: Incoming #1 – Bel-Dann & Raksor, now based on Earth, are killed, warning "Fear the Trees", and Hulkling becomes emperor of the united Kree/Skrull empire under the direction of the Super-Skrull and Tanalth. (Essential)
2020: Road To Empyre The Kree/Skrull War #1 – Events leading to Empyre are recounted, and the Warners learn the Krew/Skrull War is over.(Completest Reading Only)
Empyre Fantastic Four #0 – The Fantastic Four encounter the Profiteer and rescue a Kree child and a Skrull child. (Completest Reading Only)
Empyre Avengers #0 – The Avengers reunite with Sequoi and the Cotati on the Blue Area of the Moon, helping turn the area into a garden paradise, as the Cotati prepare to for invasion from the Kree/Skrull fleet. (Essential)
Themes, & Hints of Things To Come
Looking through the massive list of comics that inspire and lead-in to Empyre, several themes can be seen that paint some things that may be upcoming in Empyre.
- Steve Englehart wrote most of the stories that are truly important to this event. The introduction of Mantis and her son Sequoi, the Celestial Madonna arc establishing the origin of the Kree/Skrull war and the introduction of the Cotati, as well as his work on the Silver Surfer with Mantis, the Kree, the Skrulls, and the Elders of the Universe. Is his past work with these characters the best place to look for clues for what may happen?
- The Cotati's stories are linked to Mantis, the Kree, and Kang. We know the Kree and Cotati are going to be fighting each other, but are Kang and Mantis going to show up as well? More involvement from the Elders of the Universe?
- The Cotati is very important, as established by Empyre Avengers #0, but they are living plants, like Krakoa. What does this mean for the X-Men and their mutant nation based on a living plant island?
- The Kree and Skrull have worked together in the past, but it always falls apart. Can Hulkling keep it together? Why are Tanalth and the Super-Skrull working together?
- The Blue Area of the Moon is now home to the Cotati, but after Original Sin, the Unseen came to call it home after the death of the Watcher. Where is he?
- Finally, one theme firmly established looking at this list of stories is that the Kree clearly has reason to hate the Avengers, the Skrulls hate the Fantastic Four, and the Fantastic Four clearly have reasons to distrust the Skrulls. Is everything destined to fall into chaos as the Skrulls and the Kree may not just be coming to fight the Cotati?
- Sequoi claims to the Celestial Messiah, the child of the Celestial Madonna. The last Celestial Madonna's child (shown in the S.H.I.E.L.D. miniseries from 2010) was a Star Child, an infant Celestial that had to consume in order to grow into its destiny. What is Sequoi going to "grow" into?
Empyre #1 will be in stores on July 15th.