Review by Frank Plowright
Empyre was Marvel’s 2020 crossover series, with Al Ewing and Dan Slott the primary motivators. Neither, though, is greatly apparent here beyond both contributing a few pages to the ‘Incoming!’ section along with every other writer at Marvel.
Ewing’s contribution to that is actually important for introducing the Masked Raider, able to borrow the super abilities of others if they’re in the vicinity, and the long opening story is a lot better than might be expected from a plot passed from one creative team to the next. Each produces a few pages of what begins as a locked room murder mystery, and changes lead character along with the creative team. What starts small, if tragic, expands and expands until it’s taken a tour around pretty well the entire Marvel universe. Some pages are little more than teasers for other series, just establishing characters and situations, but others feed back into the plot, which eventually has a resolution.
From there it’s a logical leap into the past to examine the Kree/Skrull War. In the early 1970s Roy Thomas and Neal Adams set a new standard for the Marvel epic, pitting two alien races against each other with the Avengers caught in the middle. Robbie Thompson provides a stripped down version of that drawn by Javier Rodriguez (sample art), which incorporates more background about why the Kree and the Skrull share a mutual hate. That’s then connected with later Avengers stories featuring the Cotati, an enlightened race of sentient vegetation. Mattia De Iulis drawing the present day connecting passages has a contrasting three dimensional style, so there’s no mistaking the time frames. It’s a competent if not compelling tease as to what’s coming, the clever aspect being centring the story on Skrulls still on Earth.
Road to Empyre is completed by a couple of dozen encyclopedia style pages giving the background on the main event’s major players, situations and locations.
All in all, it’s a prelude and a primer for those who want it, but Empyre can easily be read without reference to this. All content is also available in the Empyre Omnibus.