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Reader beware, there be spoilers ahead!
To anybody paying attention to comics right now, it’s no secret that Al Ewing is having banner year, maybe year and a half to two years! His Immortal Hulk is one of the most well-received and acclaimed takes on the Big Green Meanie in recent memory and hot on the heels of that success, Marvel has handed him the reigns to this year’s event, Empyre!
Empyre #0: Avengers is a set up issue in a similar vein to other recent #0 issues from recent events. See Secret Empire or Secret Wars. The goal of these issues appears to be to introduce you to the status quo of the characters that are to be involved if you haven’t been reading the core series the characters are from previously. That isn’t to say that this issue is a long Marvel comics canon history lesson. For that, head back to Road to Empyre: The Kree/Skrull War. No, this issue is more Ewing placing the pieces on the chessboard so to speak. That being said, Ewing is still plumbing the ancient depths of Marvel lore with this event. Its’ one of the things about his writing I respect most. He did it in Ultimates, and he’s currently doing it in Immortal Hulk. If you read the opening issues of Immortal Hulk or the Avengers No Surrender issue preceding it, you know that Ewing does his homework and event cites his sources!
We start with Tony’s history-filled nightmare while he sleeps in the head of a space god. While not the full history lesson that Road to Empyre provided, the first two pages provide the cliff notes to get you up to speed. Then, the scene is set with Tony responding to Carol and joining them in orbit.
The whole issue is told from Tony’s point of view. Tony, a pragmatic scientist, is a proxy for the reader. Ewing is about to take us on a cosmic tour, steeped in Kirby-Lee history, and we need a bridge to suspend our reality. Tony acts as that bridge. As Tony reacts to the unbelievable sights he is about to witness, we are drawn into the story. Tony doesn’t believe in destiny. Tony doesn’t believe Asgardians are gods.
Of course, the Marvel version of a “meet cute” is a “meet battle!” Even this colossal throwdown is a microchosm for the greater conflict that is about to unfold for the Avengers. A move like this, foreshadowing through action sequences, is a comics story-telling master stroke if you ask me. This fight is also used to re-introduce us to some Marvel history deep cut characters. Again, no need to go back and read old Avengers back issues (although, it would probably be worth it), Ewing has you covered here.
The current Avengers team gives me a little whiplash. We’ve got a She-Hulk speaking in half sentences and Cosmic Ghost Rider is out-Tony-ing Tony with his ignorant banter.
Larraz’s pencils are effective and if anything, don’t detract from the story. He has a lot of heavy lifting to carry us from Tony’s space god penthouse, to the moon, through two character introductions, a fight sequence, and a Thunder God rainstorm. He communicates the action effectively without distracting with too much additional flash and flare.
Empyre #0: Avengers feels like an essential step. For those who have been reading the current Avengers ongoing, maybe this issue could have been dealt with in two pages in issue #1 proper of the event. However, seeing as this set up probably needed to be done for those readers entering the event cold, Ewing at least made it enjoyable through Tony’s narration lens. The pragmatic man of iron becomes purified by holy rain in a sanctified garden, longing for something deeper out of life. To top it all off, the cliffhanger is a doozy and tempts you to pick up Empyre #0: Fantastic Four.
Empyre #0: Avengers is on sale now! Official solicit:
(W) Al Ewing (A) Pepe Larraz (CA) Jim Cheung Tony Stark wakes from strange dreams – as old allies make a distress call to the Avengers. In the new Green Area of the Moon, the Cotati are waiting with news of a terrible enemy that could wipe out both them and humanity itself. The Celestial Messiah has returned… but are the Avengers ready to hear his message?
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