Review: Marvel’s ‘Empyre’ #3 Is Big On Talk Little On Action

by Oliver MacNamee

Things are happening quickly. Or so we are meant to believe from all the talking that goes on between the various super folk in the latest issue of Empyre #3. The Cotati continue to push on with their plan for the annihilation of animal life on Earth and the various members of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four have taken up their various positions to defend said attack. Where they do not tire of talking it all out. Tony Stark and Reed Richards, The Thing and Shuri shooting the breeze in Wakanda, or even Captain Marvel, newly energised with temporary power, chatting with the Skrull/Kree alliance.  All they seem to do in this issue is talk and offer exposition. Seems there is action, just not in this core book.

Tony Stark stands around racked with the guilt he feels over believing the Cotati so quickly and so easily. But then, as Reed Richards points out, these veggie-people have always been friends with Earth, until now. But, even that’s not enough. I wonder if Stark is a Catholic, or not? We do guilt with aplomb, as he is doing here. 

The whole issue seems adamant on catching us up on where all the various players are and what they’re up to at this half-way point in Marvel’s big summer event. Yes, there is some action along the way, but it’s another issue that seems to pad out what is a rather thin storyline but forced to stretch over the summer and bleed  into other Marvel titles robbing them of their momentum. The argument for less event-driven stories is not a new one, but Empyre is shaping up to be one Hell of a compelling defense against such money-grabbing initiatives. 

I suppose, if nothing else Empyre gives the two teams of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four time to catch-up and reacquaintance themselves with one another in the face of adversity. The Fantastic Four have been back on Earth a while now and this is the first time they’ve really mingled with the rest of the 616. But, I doubt that’s why anyone is buying this book. I still think that Al Ewing and Dan Slott are wasted on this formulaic, generic series. Really, by this third issue there should be at least the attempt at a jaw-dropping half-way plot-twist. But, there isn’t so don’t go into this expecting one. 

On the plus side, there are some great looking action sequences across this issue, all realised with elegant energy by artist Valerio Schiti, particularly rather spectacular looking double page spread depicting The Thing and the forces of Wakanda elevated even higher by Marte Gracia’s colors  that bind the whole book together with the liberal use of warm purples, oranges and reds.

Black Panther comes to the fore in this issue as the only Earthly hero who seem to have a clue what the Cotati’s grander plans may be. And, what he know is worrying for the advancement of the Cotati’s plan to wipe out all animal life on Earth. And beyond. So, nothing new there then from a would-be all conquering empire.

Unfortunately, I still can’t shake the feeling that this was a series we could have all easily lived without. A series that seems to be built as much around the C-list characters of the Swordsman, Mantis and Quoi, the Celestial Messiah as it is built around the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. For what long-term purpose, I’m still unsure.

Marvel never seems to tire of overusing the played-out alien invasion storyline do they? It seems to be a narrative they return to again and again, but this time could well be one time too many. Although, even with diminishing returns, I still hold that Marvel will announce a Predator/Marvel cross-over within a year. After all, they’ve dragged Conan into the mainstream Marvel, so nothing is off the table. Marvel, what are you doing?

Empyre #3 is available now from Marvel Comics

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