Empyre: Fantastic Four #0 Review

by Charles Martin on July 08, 2020

Empyre: Fantastic Four #0 Review
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: R.B. Silva & Sean Izaakse
Colourists: Marte Gracia & Marcio Menyz
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I confess, Empyre: Avengers #0 gave me Expectations for the Fantastic Four flipside. That comic ended with the Avengers squaring off against a hostile alien fleet, with the FF in the vanguard. I was hoping this one would explain how they got there.

It does not. Comic Book Guy RAAAAAAGE!

Instead, Empyre: Fantastic Four #0 delivers a rip-roaring full-family casino caper. And it leaps nimbly over the storytelling quality bar set by the current volume of FF in the process.

Well, okay then! That sounds good!

For me, the secret guarantor of quality is the way this story reverses an unfortunate trend in Dan Slott's Fantastic Four: Instead of sidelining Franklin and Valeria, it gives them a vital role in the adventure. And that makes a world of difference.

The whole family is swept up into the Casino Cosmico after running out of gas (just go with it) in the depths of space. Johnny pressures the Thing into the casino's gladiatorial fights, and Franklin and Val are left to guard the family's ship.

Yeah, that'll stick!

This adventure does not wholly neglect its event groundwork responsibilities. The gladiatorial games are intimately tied to the Kree-Skrull War, and exploring that tie provides a nice match for the Cotati lessons delivered in Avengers #0.

On the visual front, R.B. Silva and Sean Izaakse do a remarkable job collaborating on a consistent style. I think one artist handles the gladiator scenes and the other handles the family/casino scenes -- but I would not bet money on that. Even when it comes to the treatment of the Thing, usually a stumbling block in FF art collaborations, this book's artists stand united.

Throughout the issue, the artists deliver exquisitely polished characters and busy, almost frantic settings. My one critique would be that the panels verge on sheer visual overload in the action scenes, rendering character motion and story progression a little hard to track. (And where did the Kree find that spare helmet in the first fight?)

Colourists Marte Gracia and Marcio Menyz follow the artists' lead in collaborating closely, producing a consistent, super-high-intensity palette. It's appropriate for an FF story set in a space casino -- but it does contribute to the visual overload sensation at times.

Not all of the colours are dialled up to 11, though. I wish I knew which colourist did the FF's first "out of gas" page, because the starfield effects and Johnny's flames are washed into the panels with exquisite subtlety. That page is a frame-worthy example of comic book colouring as art.

Dan Slott's script strikes a skilled balance between characterization, plot progression, and historical exposition. (He's more than enough of a veteran to keep a tight rein on that last one.)  If I say little about the plot, rest assured it's because this comic's well-timed twists and turns deserve not to be spoiled. It's a heck of a page-turner, and there are plenty of little surprises along the way to reward the engaged reader.

I was initially disappointed by the dialogue in the first gladiator match. It sounds juvenile. But subsequent scenes justify that tone and turn it into a strength instead of a weakness. The rest of the dialogue is strong, simple, and naturalistic. It paints endearing portraits of the familiar family members. Mr. Slott's dialogue is a little less effective on the new villain du jour, the Profiteer. She's a Grandmaster sibling (literally) with all the nuance shorn off the older character, leaving behind a pure scenery-chewing baddy.

And doesn't it run contrary to the fundamental definition of the Elders of the Universe to give them siblings? They're supposed to be sole survivors of their species. But I don't think Dan Slott is the first writer to chuck that rule.

Empyre: Fantastic Four #0 is a pleasant surprise. It dials down the historical event exposition much lower than its Avengers counterpart, concentrating instead on a fast, fun family adventure. This gives it considerable crossover appeal. Even if you're planning on giving Empyre a pass, FF #0 is worth picking up if you're a fan of the World's Greatest Comics Family.

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Charles Martin's picture
I do love clever/corny subversions of the Thing's catchphrase, and this issue has a real corker.