Review by Frank Plowright
Omnibus editions of crossovers are always awkward beasts, and this is no different, but also faced unique problems. Empyre’s core story of war between alien races spilling over onto Earth is tightly plotted by Al Ewing and Dan Slott, and the six chapters as drawn by Valerio Schiti (sample art) are the highlight. The editorial problem is where to place the tie-ins. As comics they were published alongside the serialised Empyre, so should they be sifted in between chapters of the core story, as they sometimes inform it, or is that just interrupting the flow? On balance, the right decision is made. The content begins with the preludes, moves on to the main story, and then runs the tie-ins. Some are just background, some use the event to supply associated stories, and others, like Captain Marvel, have a more direct bearing.
Only very loosely connected, but worth mentioning separately, are the X-Men chapters, begun and ended by Jonathan Hickman, with various other writers contributing in between and a host of good art. They actually have very little bearing on the main event, and read as if plotted on the fly, with the result being the most bonkers tie-in to an event you’re ever likely to read. That’s available packaged separately as Empyre: X-Men, while the Avengers and Captain America stories are combined in paperback, the prologue content is found as Road to Empyre, and other chapters are gathered in Lords of Empyre. The Captain Marvel and Fantastic Four material was issued as Empyre in their own series.
What’s unique to the Empyre story is how it was affected by everything closing down during the first covid outbreak of 2019. Several additional tie-ins were announced, but never published despite work having started on them. A flaw of the core story is how Thor turns up near the end and uses never before seen powers pivotally. We see here how that would have been explained in a separate Thor solo story. Work was also begun on tie-ins featuring Ghost Rider, the Invasion of Wakanda, Spider-Man, the Squadron Supreme and Strikforce, but these stories never saw publication, indeed they were never completed. The work that was done is presented here. In each case it begins with some finished pages, an entire episode of Spider-Man, Thor and Invasion of Wakanda provided, before devolving all the way down to reproduction of typed script and pencil roughs. Ghost Rider and Strikeforce are only represented by covers.
The final content is two chapters of Agents of Wakanda, which under other circumstances would have been collected as a trade with the ‘Invasion of Wakanda’ story. Left homeless until the entire series is eventually gathered, they’re supplied to end the book, which makes it a costly purchase for fans of that series.
A fair quantity of stories you’re probably never going to see printed elsewhere is a possible inducement, but while it’s always nice seeing good art at a larger size, little of the additional material matches the quality of the core series. Follow the links for more detailed specifics about individual story components.