In Review: Empress #4

Danger from a new source has the Empress and her family in dire straits.

The covers: A trio of covers to locate for this issue. The Main cover is by Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, and Ive Svorcina. This is the most dramatic cover yet by these artists: the title character cradles the body of Dane, who has a massive hole in his chest that appears to be leaking white energy. In the background, Tor, Aine, and Adam look on shocked, their images obstructed by the harsh winds on Golgoth. Great illustration by Immonen and von Grawbadger and the colors by Svorcina put the reader’s eye squarely in the center of the image, looking upon the distraught Empress. Great cover and this moment does occur in this issue! The Main Cover Pencil Variant is the same illustration as the Main cover, minus the inks of von Grawbadger and colors of Svorcina. It’s a nice peek at what an artist does before submitting his or her work to an inker and colorist. I’m a huge fan of Immonen’s work, so I like this, but I have to admit liking it better with the other pair’s contributions. Stuart Immonen and Dave McCaig have created the final cover, the simply labeled Variant cover. This features Adam holding Puck, side by side with his sister Aine. The boys look nervously forward, while their sister has her arms folded and looks in the same direction unafraid. The digital colors by McCaig are strong, with the all ebony background really making the figures pop off the cover. This is the cover of the book that I purchased. Overall grades: Main A, Main Cover Pencil Variant A-, and Variant A+

The story: On the junk world of Golgoth, Dane comes upon Aine praying to the sun. She’s praying they get off the world. Aine asks if Dane’s a believer, to which he replies, “I believe in whatever helps.” Their conversation is interrupted by a distant Tor who yells at the two to come see something: Adam has figured out a way to use the surrounding junk to build a temporary engine to get them off world. Ship vouches for Adam, so Dane’s happy. He walks over to offer the boy a hand and is shot in the back by a massive blue beam of energy. The Empress is shot next, Puck tumbling from her arms. This is a massive change of direction from writer Mark Millar and it’s exactly the right move. The series has established with the appearance of Ship that the characters can teleport to any world, and that’s exactly what happened last issue. It’s a fun ability to have them travel to several worlds, and Millar did that last issue. Having shown off Ship’s abilities, it’s wise to stay on one world for a time. There must be other threats in the universe beside Morax and his men. Millar delivers with Red Cobb and his junkers. They are perfect villains for this issue and their intentions for the family and friends severe. There are some strong emotions running high in this issue; rightly so, considering the stakes. With the group separated it’s interesting to see how the group that’s focused upon intends to escape their bondage. Pages 16 and 17 will cause a reader to produce an expletive at what one hero has done to the villains: it’s the definition of “bad-assery.” With this group out to find the other, they end up going to a new world where their reception is very different from any other they’ve received while on the run. This is an extremely entertaining read. Overall grade: A 

The art: In a science fiction comic I want to be “wowed” by the visuals. I want to see things I haven’t seen before, and I’m old enough to have watched Space 1999 when it was new, so I’m old enough to say I’ve seen a lot. I am continually “wowed” by the visuals of artist Stuart Immonen and inker Wade von Grawbadger. The opening page instantly transports the reader to another world, showing the junker world of Golgoth. Even the quick look at how Aine practices her religion is something new to see. If this isn’t enough, the ship that appears at the bottom of Page 2 shows the reader how vessels are different in this universe. When Dane is shot it’s shocking and powerful: one would expect the character to be cleaved in two from the size of that blast. Equally shocking is the blast that fells the Empress and Aine, more so because each is trying to scramble to safety with Puck. The pair that have captured the group have fantastic clothes that look absolutely appropriate for their professions. The top of 8 has no text, but created a reason to hope for the heroes’ salvation. The emotion of the Empress is powerful and is the same reaction that any mother would have. The first three panels on 11 is a terrific visual way to show how each character sees their situation. 13 moves the book to a different setting and the detail is terrific. The action in the second panel on 17 is scream worthy. I love a good visual cliffhanger, and 22 has got that, with a three-quarters double page spread that shows a new setting, a horizontal panel that establishes some characters, and an inserted close up of a character that is gorgeously detailed but horrific in appearance. The look of this book is so classic science fiction it makes me want to weep. Overall grade: A

The colors: With all the details in Immonen and von Grawbadger’s art it falls upon colorist Ive Svorcina to assist the reader in finding a focus. In a dust blown world of trash, the characters’ bright clothing has them sharply stand out against the yellows, browns, and tans. When Dane and the others are shot down, the energy beam is a light blue that also colors the background. As these bolts go off they are shocks of color on the page that will stun the reader as much as the characters. The interiors that begin on Page 10 are delightfully dark and dank; what other colors could such a location be? Besides, as with Golgoth, the characters are instant eye catchers with their bright colors. 13 is beautiful with its many colors, being a complete change from the junk world. Violets close the book out wonderfully, being a color that shouldn’t exist so plentifully, but in this universe it makes perfect sense. Overall grade: A

The letters: Scene settings, dialogue, groans, sounds, and screams are created by Peter Doherty. I prefer to see scene settings and dialogue differentiated by their fonts and not the shape of their balloons. I also like to see sounds in my comics. It’s odd to see that laser blasts make sounds, but every other action in this book is mute. Why are explosions that rock city blocks silent, but a laser gun makes a sound? This isn’t Doherty’s decision, it’s Millar’s. It’s very disappointing, taking some fun out of the book. Overall grade: B

The final line: Danger from a new source has the Empress and her family in dire straits. The action never lets up and the visuals look terrific. 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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