Empyre Avengers #0: A Confusing Start to Marvel's Summer Blockbuster

In previous Marvel summer blockbuster events, the Avengers have fought the X-Men, Norman Osborn waged war on Asgard, the God of Fear stalked the Earth, and universes were smashed together in a grand war orchestrated by Dr. Doom, but the opening salvo for Empyre, Empyre: Avengers #0, offers an interesting hook muddled in confusing continuity. Here, the Kree and Skrull armies have done the unthinkable: forged an alliance, but their union is built upon a mess of old events, difficult to parse for any new reader.

Al Ewing has written many of Marvel Comics' best modern series, with his biggest claim to fame being the stellar horror-infused Immortal Hulk which ventures into a darker world of gamma radiation. This issue is clearly serves as an exposition dump to set the stakes for the coming conflict of "Empyre." The problem is that the conflict itself is one so steeped in Marvel lore that it's an impediment for newcomers.

Avengers Empyre #0
(Photo: Marvel Comics)

Continuity is often my jam as a reader of all things Marvel for decades now, and I'm reminded of Avengers: Forever, the time hopping maxi-series that assembled members of the team from different time periods to travel through Avengers' history with a fine toothed comb. While that series was steeped in lore, it was also self contained and didn't stretch across the entirety of the comics' universe as Empyre is attempting to do.

The stakes hinge on a fan's knowledge of the alien race known as the Cotati, a plant based people that have a deep history with the Kree and worked their way into the Avengers' story by resurrecting the Swordsman. Even in this description, we're barely past the tip of the iceberg, as we're then walked through Swordsman's relationship with Mantis and their offspring Sequoia. The Cotati have become a large enough priority that the Kree and Skrull empires have united to face them, and the Avengers rally to stop the coming genocide.

The artist of Empyre: Avengers #0, Pepe Larraz, provides some great work here, with his pencils being reminiscent of Stuart Immonen, capturing both the epic and quiet moments expertly. While the exposition and impetus for "Empyre" might not be firing on all cylinders, Ewing and Larraz understand their characters and do a fantastic job of taking readers inside their heads through the vantage point of Tony Stark, reeling with his team's trip to the Blue Area of the Moon.

As a debut issue, Empyre: Avengers #0 is certainly a mixed bag, but there are enough snippets and intriguing hooks within the comic to keep me interested in seeing where exactly "Empyre" will be go within Marvel for the crossover. The final page essentially turns everything on its ear and let's readers know that the coming battles for the Avengers may strike a bit too close to home. This, on top of the interesting swerve of just who is the new ruler of the Kree/Skrull Empire, are enough to make almost any Marvel fan want to read more.

Empyre: Avengers #0 might not be the best start to a comic book crossover event, but it's certainly an interesting one, warts and all.

Published by Marvel Comics

On June 24, 2020

Written by Al Ewing

Art by Pepe Larraz

Colors by Marte Gracia

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