In Review: Empress #2

A sensational science fiction chase that thrills with both story and art. Recommended.

The covers: You might need Ship to help you locate all five of the covers for this second issue. The Main cover is by Stuart Immonen & Wade von Grawbadger with colors by Dave McCaig. This is an illustration of three of the royal family on the run, with loyal Dane Havelock at their side, gun drawn. The point of view is from below the characters looking up, showing the rain falling from the sky and the the huge electrical billboard that’s projecting an image of the wanted Empress. The neon coloring on this makes it extra flashy; also cool that Dane is colored differently than the royals. The Main Cover Pencil Variant is the same image as the Main cover, just without von Grawbadger’s inks and McCaig’s colors. Immomen’s pencil work is neat to see and this shows a reader exactly how much the inker and colorist contribute, which is a lot. I like this, but I prefer it fully inked and colored. The next is the Immonen Variant with digital paints by McCaig. It introduces Tor Blinder, a man that the quintet is looking for to help them out. He stands, not so vertically, next to Ship, which is emanating energy. This is the exact opposite perspective of the Main cover and it is the right angle to see all of this new co-star. This is a good debut that doesn’t give away any aspects of the character, other than his height. The Leinil Yu Variant cover is a nice showcase of all the heroes. The Empress has a huge rifle, Dane his pistol, Adam looks worried holding infant Puck, Aine looks ready for action with a rifle matching her mother’s, and Tor is out in front with two pistols. Nice image on a cool blue and green background. The final Variant is by Mike Mayhew and it resembles a 1970’s science fiction paperback cover. I’m assuming that it’s a profile bust of the Empress who’s crying a single orange tear. She has an elaborate headdress of an orange dragon on her head, and behind her is an orange sun. It’s a sci-fi image that is very retro, yet very cool. I want to know what inspired this! Overall grades: Main B+, Main Cover Pencil Variant B-, Variant Immonen A, Variant Yu A, and Variant Mayhew A+

The story: On Antares, the stopover planet, 65 million years ago, Chief Bozz delights in showing off Ship to his men. Ship, a teleporter, will take them anywhere it can see. The device can’t teleport away on its own because the criminal installed a clamp into it. Meanwhile, on the bustling city streets, Aine is accosted by a vendor trying to get her to swap bodies with one of their species so that they’ll exercise while she can eat all she wants. Adam asks, “So they exercise in your body while you get their bodies fatter and fatter?” Dane says the Quez are the “greediest, most cash-obsessed creatures in the universe…They’ll do anything for money.” Even on such a crowded street in the rain, Dane warns the Empress to keep her head down. “We can’t take any chances here.” High above them are gigantic projections of wanted signs showing her face and Dane’s. They eventually find the diminutive Tor Blinder whom Dane was hoping could help their escape. Instead they involve themselves in the rescue of Ship. How they get Ship is fun and writer Mark Millar makes their escape highly entertaining. High points include a sensational turn in the second panel on Page 12, a spectacular arrival on 13 and 14, a daring leap on 16, and another impressive arrival on 18 prefaced with “One step to the left, I think just to be on the safe side.” Their daring escape depends on one family member’s abilities which haven’t been highlighted yet, so it was neat to see that this character contributes to the story and doesn’t just serve to be a body along for the ride. Where they end up puts them in a new danger, with the youngest of the group in the most peril. This was another exciting chapter. Overall grade: A

The art: I picked this series up because of the visuals. I enjoy science fiction settings and I’d like to read more stories set in far off galaxies loaded with creatures I’ve not seen before. Stuart Immonen on pencils and Wade von Grawbadger on inks are giving me exactly what I’m looking for. The first page opens with a terrific shot of Antares seen from just outside its orbit; it’s peppered with several ships of different design. The second panel shows a close up of one of its cities, complete with foreign architecture and an ship in its sky. The four panel establishes the rooftop of Chief Bozz’s palace, looking like an extravagant shrine. The look of Bozz is unlike anything I’ve seen before, and that’s saying something since I’m a huge fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Legion of Super-Heroes (a title Immonen was on long ago). The first panel on Page 3 is a stunner, showing the crowded alien street; it outdoes the design of Blade Runner. The final panel on 4 only cements this statement. The action begins on Page 12 and it’s a knockout of a scene, which is outdone by the arrival on 13 and 14. Having the passengers spill about in this vehicle as it takes off is wonderful; it’s not often that artists remember gravity in sequences like this. Dane shows himself to be the ultimate bodyguard on 16 enacting a scene I’d love to see in a film. The visuals provide a great punchline to the text stated on 18. The new location that appears on 21 is a dramatic introduction with gravity again creating problems, with one individual looking to be in some trouble and with a turn to the final page the danger is expanded one hundred fold. I am loving the visuals of this book. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The coloring on this book by Ive Svorcina send this book into the stratosphere. The golden rooftop of Bozz’s palace shows how extravagantly he lives his life. The pale lime crown for his head is wonderfully set off by the amber of his face and chin. The red iris of Ship gives the device an angry persona. The bright colors and neon used for Pages 3 and 4 gives the crowded city an instantly urban feel and the final panel on 4 is spectacular. Bright oranges and yellows are used to heighten the action that kicks in on Page 12, and they’re employed when the vehicle arrives on 13 and 14. Placing Dane in a blue top that matches his quiff is a smart way to have him get the reader’s focus immediately since it allows him to stand out in every panel he’s in, especially on 16. The blues that appear on the new character on the book’s final page are also impressive. That word sums up Svorcina’s work completely: impressive. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Peter Doherty is responsible for creating scene settings and dialogue (the same font) and yells. I would have loved to have seen some sound effects in this issue, as they would have given some punch to all the action that occurs, but adding in sounds is not in Doherty’s purview. Hopefully Millar includes some at some point in this series’ run. Overall grade: A-

The final line: A sensational science fiction chase that thrills with both story and art. Recommended. Overall grade: A

More information on Empress and other Mark Millar works can be found at http://www.millarworld.tv

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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