Review by Frank Plowright
Emporia regrets the day her younger self took a friend’s shift on the pleasure cruiser and wound up married to the galaxy’s greatest tyrant. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Three children and fifteen years later her eyes have opened, and when a means of escape presents itself, she takes it. However, you don’t become the galaxy’s greatest tyrant without having considerable resources at your disposal.
The cover portrait gives very little away. The central figure is Emporia, and the background features the tyrant Morax and Dane, assigned as her constant protector, so a resourceful man. He’s just what’s needed when an escape plan goes seriously wrong.
Empress isn’t Mark Millar extending himself greatly, but it hits all the right action/adventure notes as he propels the cast through a series of inhospitable or dangerous environments in what mixes Star Wars with Indiana Jones. The surprises come from throwing in another inventive threat rather than deep foreshadowing, but ignore the tyrant in the short term and it’s a generally cheerful cast adapting to circumstance.
Where Empress really scores, though, is with the phenomenal art of Stuart Immonen. He’d later show what he could do when appointed artist on the Star Wars comic, but this is one hell of an audition. He designs dozens of aliens, all of them distinct, obviously loves getting to draw the space scenes, and Ive Svorcina’s colours for the cities really sparkle.
The foreshadowing has been by method of neon signpost throughout most of Empress, but Millar hasn’t entirely lost his talent for misdirection as the title comes to have a secondary meaning by the end. There is a sort of cliffhanger for a never produced follow-up, but Empress stands well enough alone as frothy fun with amazing art.