After three issues of the Dawn of X writer’s room one-upping one another, Empyre: X-Men #4 brings the miniseries to a surprisingly thoughtful and sad end. How do the X-Men survive this, and what does it mean for mutants and Krakoa in the future?
Three issues of thrills have built up to this as the X-Men face one of the toughest threats of the Krakoan era. Unknown to them though, that threat hid an unlikely source. That all comes crashing down in this issue by Jonathan Hickman, Jorge Molina, Lucas Wernick, Adrianno di Benedetto, Nolan Woodard, Rochelle Rosenberg, Clayton Cowles, and Tom Muller.
The X-Men face the combined eldritch horrors of the Cotati zombies and mutant zombies, while fending off the invading alien fleet. However, unknown to them, one of those threats has a ticking clock that will take care of it for them. And it all has to do with one of the most reviled figures in Krakoan culture, Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch!
This issue has such an interesting structure. Fully half of the issue is dedicated the Scarlet Witch’s actions to make amends for her actions that decimated the mutant population, then half of the remaining page count is dedicated to a resurrected Krakoan mutant having a heart to heart with his long dead zombified Genoshan self. However, Hickman makes it all work incredibly well, creating a surprisingly emotional climax for this extremely fun action story.
It’s not perfect though. Some of the dialogue is overwrought, some of the characters (Monet) are underused, and Hordeculture is just a drag on the story every time they show up. However, the Scarlet Witch parts of the story in particular really lift the story up AND set up an interesting future for her, and, in Explodey Boy, creates a breakout star that I would LOVE to see pop up again in the near future.
Wernick, Molina and di Benedetto do a great job on the line art. Molina and di Benedetto’s work on the Scarlet Witch’s quest does just enough to convey the humor of the situation while making it feel very dynamic (even if they’re just giving us snapshots of the overall quest), and in the end packing an emotional punch. Wernick meanwhile revisits the Genoshan action that he depicted a few issues ago, and depicts very fun chaos while making a young mutant boy charming and full of life even while he’s staring at his reanimated corpse. The colors are very strong by Woodard and Rosenberg, though the Genoshan scenes’ overreliance on yellows sometimes makes the page feel a bit on the sickly side.
Was this story the best Empyre tie-in? It may have been. It’s one part goofy event tie-in (that doesn’t take itself seriously) and one part important puzzle piece for the X-Men line in the near future. It comes highly recommended.
Empyre: X-Men #4 is available now from Marvel Comics.