Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Marvel postponed its massive annual crossover event for 2020, but now it’s finally here. This year that crossover is Empyre; the first issue of the grand and epic cosmic event has arrived to give fans a taste of what to expect from the Marvel Universe in the near future.

The best part of Empyre is that the Fantastic Four once again joins a Marvel crossover for the first time since 2015’s Secret Wars. It’s frankly getting tiresome of seeing the same Avengers-centric or X-Men-focused events for the past five years. It’s time that we shine the spotlight on Marvel’s First Family again.

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Who Is The Creative Team Behind Empyre?

Al Ewing is Marvel’s current cosmic king (and the natural successors to previous cosmic masters like the late Jack Kirby, Jim Starlin, and Dan Abnett). Anyone who’s been reading his ongoing Immortal Hulk run will know how great of a writer he is. Joining him on writing duties is current Fantastic Four and Iron Man writer Dan Slott (whom you might know from his previous decade-long stint on The Amazing Spider-Man).

The brilliant out-of-this-world art comes from Valerio Schiti and colourist Marte Gracia, and let’s not forget letterer Joe Caramanga who makes the dialogue pop from the pages, lending even more epicness.

What Is Empyre About?

The main premise of Empyre is simple at heart, as the Avengers and Fantastic Four go head-to-head against an invading force consisting of the Kree and the Skrulls, who have united to wipe out the Cotati, another alien race long-thought extinct in the Marvel Universe. The Kree, in particular, has a long and bloody history with the Cotati, as they were the ones who committed genocide and tried to eradicate the Cotati millennia ago.

Fast-forward to today, and the Avengers and the Fantastic Four shockingly find themselves face-to-face in deep space with Teddy Altman AKA Hulking; half-Kree, half-Skrull, and former Young Avenger. He embraced his birthright or “destiny” as leader of the new Kree and Skrull alliance in order to stop the war between them once and for all (or so he thinks.

Oh, and he’s also gay, as well as supposed to be in a loving relationship with Billy Kaplan AKA Wiccan, who is not only the son of the Scarlet Witch but one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe (he can manipulate reality at will).

However, Hulking is now Emperor Dorrek VIII, and he is here with a Kree-Skrull fleet ready to decimate the Cotati and maybe even Earth with it.

Teddy Altman/Hulkling/Emperor Dorrek VIII on his throne in the Kree/Skrull flagship, in Empyre #1, Marvel Comics (2020).

The Cotati are now living on the moon (yes, our moon), which is why the Kree-Skrull armada has arrived. However, Tony Stark AKA Iron Man received visions from a member of the Cotati and he (along with the Avengers) have pledged to help protect the “seemingly” defenceless sentient plant race.

What Is Required Reading For Empyre?

As with pretty much any Marvel crossover, there are a lot of recent comics that have been building up to Empyre, not to mention the older comics which form the basis of existing lore. This is a story that’s pretty much a continuation of the original Kree-Skrull War crossover by Roy Thomas all the way back in 1971/1972, which means that there have been almost four decades of history and comics leading to Empyre.

Don’t worry though, you don’t really need to read all of those older comics to understand and enjoy Empyre. However, those who do or have done so (in particular, existing and long-time comic book readers) will find the comic so much more rewarding.

That said, you could get definitely benefit from having a little more context on the wider conflict by reading The Avengers: Kree-Skrull War comic, which is available on Comixology.

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Next, you could also check out the Young Avengers comics to learn more about Hulking, who is at the heart of the new Kree-Skrull alliance. There’s the original run by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung (available here), and the most recent run by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (available here). It’s currently unclear if the rest of the Young Avengers will be involved in Empyre, but at least you’ll know more about Hulking.

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Last but not least, you should probably read Avengers: The Complete Celestial Madonna Saga, written by Steve Englehart, Jim Starlin and Roy Thomas. It explains the role of the Celestial Madonna and Celestial Messiah, which is heavily featured in Empyre as it directly pertains with the Cotati. It’s available on Comixology here.

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Sure, there’s a lot more comics you have to read to get the full picture; it’s 40 years of comics after all. However, I think the comics that I listed are basically more than enough for you to understand all the major players and plot points in Empyre.

Is Empyre Worth Reading (So Far)?

Yes, it is. I can’t say much about the plot without spoiling it, especially the game-changing twist at the end of the very first issue. Like I mentioned in my tweet, Empyre provides a grand scale that remains unique to comics as a medium, the likes of which the movie adaptations have yet to be able to replicate so far (yes, even Avengers Infinity War and Avengers Endgame).

Teddy Altman/Hulkling blocks Thor’s hammer Mjolnir with his sword, in a blast of white hot electric light and a ringing “TUNNG-G-G-G,” in Empyre #1, Marvel Comics (2020).

The Best Single Page From Empyre #1

An Avengers quinjet bursts into demonic flame as Ghost Rider takes the helm. “Ghost quinjet,” he says, “Nobody freak out,” in Empyre #1, Marvel Comics (2020).

Yes, that’s Ghost Rider turning the Avengers Quinjet into a flaming spaceship. If that doesn’t make you want to read Empyre, I don’t know what will.

In the meantime, check out the trailer to Empyre below (yes, Marvel Comics made an actual trailer).


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