‘Empyre’ #1 Offers Up A Familiar Set-Up We’ve Seen Too Many Times Before From Marvel

by Olly MacNamee

(++WARNING: This review contains some spoilers for Empyre #1++)

Empyre #1 is finally here and what seems to be another epic-scale confrontation with the Skrulls and the Kree by Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers, is turned on its head by the end of this first issue. Although, most of this book is designed to lull the reader into a false sense of familiarity. For all intents and purposes this reads like any other title-wide summer blockbuster. All the usual ingredients are brought together to offer up the more-than-familiar set-up of a huge and crippling alien force – in this case the combined forces of the Skrulls and the Kree, under the command of the Hulking –  on its way to Earth, as well as the heroes taking sides against one another. The Fantastic Four side with the Skrull/Kree alliance while the Avengers don’t. But only one can be right, right?

Dan Slott and Al Ewing seem to have given us an issue that, while surprising this reader by the end of the book, is a by-the-numbers script. Any hype Empyre may have once had has not be realised fully. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot going for this freshman issue. It’s a great looking Marvel comic and artist Valerio Schiti serves up a beautiful looking book that apes the current preferred Marvel style (something in-between R.B.Silva and Pepe Larraz as seen on Dawn of X), but it is ultimately a story, for most of the issue, Marvel fans have seen time and time again. DC Comics’ have their crises, while Marvel always seem to have the Skrulls or the Krees attacking and causing bother. I know which I would rather read. There may be some very cool moments in this comic – like when Ghost Rider takes control of the Avengers’ quinjet – but on reflection, this isn’t a dynamic enough debut for my liking, and relies too much on hokey characters and concepts.

By the end of this first issue, the true threat is revealed as the seemingly hippy-dippy Cotati – literally flower people –  and the whole power-dynamics of this series has just been turned on its head. But, it still boils down to yet another alien threat to Earth, only the alien species wanting to wipe out all life in the universe is different. Think Day of the Triffids, but the Triffids can walk and talk. And they’re pissed.
But, will that be enough to capture readers attention enough, or will this be another damp squib in what seems to be an assembly line of recent failures from Marvel’s summer events? There just doesn’t seem to be enough originality in this concept, so far, for that eventuality. But then, I am reminded that while this is probably heavily mandated by Marvel’s editoriall, we’re talking about Ewing and Slott here. That guarantee of quality is enough for me to come back for a second helping next issue. I’ll just be avoiding the tie-ins and stick with this core title though. After all, who needs to see a variety of Marvel heroes go toe-to-toe with an assortment of vegetative life – the Cotati –  before they finally defeat this current threat? Not me, nor my wallet.
Emypre #1 is available now from Marvel.

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