In Review: Empress #3

A fun science fiction outing where each step could lead to salvation or destruction.

The covers: The Main cover is a dramatic entrance of the book’s heroes as they are transported by Ship, the circular object at the top of the illustration. Going clockwise, starting under Ship, are Aine, the Empress holding Puck, Adam, Tor, and Dane. Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, and Ive Svorcina are responsible for this cover. Excellent colors by Svorcina to show the strength of Ship’s abilities. There’s a Main Cover Pencil Variant that features Immonen’s pencils for the Main cover before Grawbadger added his inks and Svorcina her colors. If one is a fan of what an artist’s original work looks like, this is one to pick up. The next variant cover is by Immonen with digital paints by Dave McCaig. This has Dane solo with his gun before him. He looks terrific and the coloring on him, especially his sleeves, instantly identify him as a science fiction character. This could be a print or tee shirt very easily. The final variant is by Mike Deodato with colors by Svorcina. This has Dane topless, standing atop a rocky mound, holding a huge rifle behind his head. Behind him is the enormous, unhappy face of King Morax. Great image showing the hero, big and buff, with the villain of the book dominating the sky. The colors highlight the hero, while keeping the villain, rightly, in the dark. Overall grades: Main A-, Main Sketch Variant A-, Variant Digital Colors A, and Variant Deodato A

The story: Last issue left off on a major cliffhanger as the group had transported to the side of a mountain on a snow covered world, with infant Puck falling from a ledge. Below the tyke a King Kong sized beast leaps up with open mouth to swallow the innocent. Dane rushes to action and leaps after the child, grabbing him in midair. He pulls his gun before he and the child enter the beast’s mouth and slide down its tongue into its belly. Tor reassures the grieving Empress, “They’re in that thing now and he’ll kill it from the inside. I’ll get him on the comm-link.” But there is no reply from Dane and the creature turns towards the survivors to finish its feast. Credit must be given to Mark Millar for milking this sequence in all the right ways. This includes justifying why Ship can’t transport the survivors away and a bit of levity in the second panel on Page 5. Things take a deadly turn on 6 until the chase ends dramatically. The group jumps about, trying to find a world where they can be free from King Morax, but each location has its problems. The group ends up on a world hinted at in the previous issue and it instantly had me looking for trouble. Millar leaves the heroes for four pages to show what the series’ despot is up to and every reader knows it’s not going to be good works. The issue ends with a new world and a new problem, and that’s just what I wanted. With Ship able to jump the group anywhere, I want to see this galaxy that Millar and Immonen have created. The more the better. Overall grade: A

The art: The first nine pages of this book have the heroes trying to evade the creatures and other dangers of Arcturus. The creature that was shown in the final panel of Issue #2 gets shown off much more in this issue, both external and internally. Monsters are often hit or miss in science fiction, but this creature, crafted by penciller Stuart Immonen and inker Wade von Grawbadger looks great. It’s like a bobcat mated with Godzilla, and it’s movements are incredibly fluid. The second panel on Page 4 has the creature resembling something from a classic Frank Frazetta Conan painting. I wasn’t prepared for the first panel on 3 with it being delightfully disgusting. Page 10 has two different worlds the group pops off to and they are unique and marvelously science fiction looking; in fact, I hope that Immonen and Grawbadger will get to return to these worlds to show off more of these locations and their inhabitants. Page 11 doesn’t show much of a new world, instead showing what’s occurring there and it’s a mess! The new location on 12 is in complete opposition to the previous world and is a paradise. This is countered with the turn of a page with the sequence focusing on Morax in one of his palaces. It’s grandiose which perfectly suits its pretentious leader. The last location that’s visited certainly lives up to its namesake, with a spectacular gigantic structure that is shown in its first panel. The double-paged spread that follows shows that nature can be as terrifying as any monster. The last page is a full page splash that shows the dire predicament of the characters on this new world. It’s a minimal illustration that captures the latest horror magnificently. This book captures the feel of a classic science fiction epic. Overall grade: A+

The colors: With so many worlds to explore in this issue, colorist Ive Svorcina exploits the opportunity to use colors to make alien worlds truly alien. The opening sequence on the snow covered world has the expected blues and white for such a cold climate, but the coloring of the monstrosity after the heroes is something else: bright highlights on its cheeks and the ability to change colors. The colors on the two worlds on Page 10 are beautiful, with the inhabitants of the second location gorgeous. The world where the protagonists get a moment to rest has a night scene that allows Svorcina to create bright lights and to showcase the beautiful coloring on the Empress’s cloak. The final world is practically shown though a filter, as it should be, given what it is. The colors help the artwork exponentially. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Dialogue, scene settings, and the tease for next issue (all three the same font), yells, alien writing, and a mechanical voice are created by Peter Doherty. The scene settings should be a different font from the dialogue, though they are differentiated by the shape of the text balloon, but even placing them in italics would have been something. There are several opportunities for sounds in this issue, but sadly there are none. It’s not Doherty’s job to insert them, that’s up to Millar, but the scenes that needed them would have “sounded” much more real. Overall grade: B 

The final line: The race through space continues to zig and zag throughout the galaxy. A fun science fiction outing where each step could lead to salvation or destruction. Overall grade: A-

To find out more about this series go to http://www.millarworld.tv/comics

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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