Rather than treat the Empyre crossover as part of the already expansively revised X-Men continuity, the assorted writers connected with X-Men related titles elected to produce a four chapter standalone story. It also stands alone from most of the remaining Empyre content, using only the fact that alien plant race the Cotati have invaded Earth. The alien squadron opening chapter writers Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard concentrate on have landed on the island of Genosha off the African coast as a staging post, intending to invade Wakanda. What they don’t know is that Genosha was once home to a large and exclusively mutant community, almost all of whom died at the hands of Sentinels. That would be irrelevant other than the Cotati arriving just after the Scarlet Witch attempts to resurrect them. The result is mutant zombies.

To say the Empyre: X-Men doesn’t head where expected is an understatement. Every chapter a new selection of writers takes over, and a new artist steps on board, and they have differing ideas about where to take the story, with the one constant being the Cotati as little but cannon fodder. They’re like the Coyote in old Warner Brothers cartoons, constantly bombarded by a new threat, his misfortune an audience’s delight. Lucas Werneck’s sample art shows Hordeculture, the ethically compromised group of pensioner botanists not seen since House of X, to whom the Cotati are an enticing new source of experimentation.

It’s all drily funny, and by the third chapter we have X-Men vs alien plants vs zombies vs Hordeculture vs psychics. Then there’s wildcard of Explodey Boy – yes, really – and some demons thrown in for good measure. By the time Hickman returns to write the final chapter, who knows what the hell is going to happen, but he began with Doctor Strange and the Scarlet Witch, and returns them to explain how he’s going to end everything. There’s room for a discussion on the nature of identity and death (with a zombie), and even a downbeat finale.

Anyone who wants every Empyre tie-in to have a bearing on the main story is going to be disappointed, but everyone else should be more than happy with possibly the most bonkers event tie-in ever. It’s also available in the Empyre Omnibus.