Empyre #5 will certainly make Young Avengers' fans happy as Hulkling and Wiccan's elopement is explored, serving as the heart of the issue, but the sheer number of moving pieces in this penultimate chapters will make readers question how on earth everything can be wrapped up before the finale. Slipped under the radar with the final page of the previous issue, the brief wedding scene is definitely a heartfelt one, and it is almost awash in a sea of other moments that have made the weight of this crossover almost too much to bare.
Empyre as a crossover event was sold as something that the Marvel Universe had never seen before, the Skrull and the Kree races uniting under the sword of the unlikely new space king in "Hulkling." Where Al Ewing decided to throw a monkey wrench into what many thought was going to be this fresh premise was by introducing the Cotati, who turn out to be the true villains of the piece. For so much weight to be rested on the shoulders of this plant-like alien race, their characters are far from as interesting as they could be. With the Cotati "Messiah" having a tenuous relationship at best with the Avengers, thanks in part to his lineage, it just doesn't go the distance when it comes to making us care as readers or recognize them as an apocalyptic threat.
This isn't to say the issue itself is a complete wash, as Ewing and Schiti are able to spread their wings when it comes to moments like the battle between the Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm and a Cotati-possessed She-Hulk. Ewing himself, who has been hitting home runs for years on projects like The Immortal Hulk, shines brightest here with The Thing, capturing the personality of Grimm in a perfect page that should be considered an all-time great for the character. While Jennifer Walter's current predicament is certainly dire, considering how Ewing has handled gamma-powered individuals in his Hulk run, fans shouldn't worry too much.
When Empyre began, Ewing was able to juggle the many characters and plot lines in the premiere issue, but the subsequent crossovers simply could not maintain those many different moving pieces from the beginning. While Hulkling and Wiccan's wedding is a highlight, the subsequent "rescue mission," and what feels like the dozen-th betrayal of this event series, just add more unnecessary elements when all is said and done. Empyre as a whole is a mixed bag and, while it has interesting elements, such as Reed Richards slapping on Iron Man's armor, it is a crossover that ultimately falls far short of its promise.
Published by Marvel Comics
On August 12, 2020
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Valerio Schiti
Colors by Marte Gracia
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Jim Cheung and Frank Martin