Empyre: Avengers #0 Review

by Charles Martin on June 24, 2020

Empyre: Avengers #0 Review
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Pepe Larraz
Colourist: Marte Gracia
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Tony Stark has bad dreams sleeping in Avengers Mountain. His visions take him back into ancient Marvel history, to the start of the Kree's bloody story.

A distress call brings him and the rest of the Avengers to the place where it happened, the Blue Area of the Moon, for some classic event-setting-upping. A basic monster fight, the return of an old friend, and a fearsome conflict a-brewing.

It's not the most challenging content, but it's made appealing and intriguing thanks to some nicely-tuned storytelling. It taps into some of Marvel's geekiest sci-fi roots, revisiting the Kree-Cotati conflict that Steve Englehart slid under the older Kree-Skree war back in the 70s. 

It even picks up the Celestial Madonna saga, one of the trickiest, most potentially cringe-inducing Avengers stories ever. 

Al Ewing and Pepe Larraz navigate the tightrope successfully, making this retro history lesson engaging rather than confusing or infuriating.

Mr. Larraz's art is ideally suited to this wide-ranging story. He paints spectacular foreground pictures of the Avengers, but his flexible layouts make it easy to slide flashbacks behind them.  He doesn't neglect his settings, either, showing off the verdant changes in the Blue Area and keeping the contemporary action thoroughly grounded.

Marte Gracia's colour work is an interesting mix between modern and throwback (with lots of green and purple). He adds all of the chromatic definition the characters need -- unless he's using strong colour overlays to adjust the focus of the panels. An example: There's a moment where a big bad comes bursting out of the forest and the foreground figures, Captain America and Black Panther, are coloured flat blue to put the emphasis where it belongs, on the monster. It's a very 70s trick, and Mr. Gracia shows it at its best.

On the verbal side of things, Al Ewing delivers efficient dialogue to chop a path through the potentially-confusing thicket of continuity. The words are deceptively clear. I've read the 70s comics that introduced the Cotati and the Celestial Madonna, and let me tell you, this re-introduction/progression does a lot of good streamlining.

The script also does interesting character work with Tony Stark. He's the viewpoint character throughout the issue, and Mr. Ewing puts him through an impressive journey. Cosmic destiny and celestial messiahs are a bit too magical and touchy-feely for Tony's technophile brain. Despite his skepticism, he's stirred by the saga of the Cotati, and he winds up being the one Assembling the team for the upcoming conflict. More than the continuity recap, it's the tension between faith and doubt within Tony's mind that makes this issue appealing.

It's just a shame that the final scenes show that other heroes have already joined up with the opposition. Here comes another "friends at war" event!

Empyre: Avengers #0 sets the stage for the big-budget conflict to come, while also doing some solid storytelling of its own. If you need a primer on the Cotati, this issue will get you up to speed with admirable efficiency. Here's hoping the upcoming Fantastic Four #0 delivers an equal measure of intrigue and appeal -- more groundwork of this calibre will make Empyre an event worth following.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I surely couldn't get pumped for a hero-vs-hero war-event, particularly not if the creators threw in a reference to Civil War II, my unfavorite example of the genre. But this issue does the job; I am pumped for Empyre.