By Mark Millar and Stuart Immonen

Mark Millar’s new series Empress is a safe bet for fans of Millar (Jupiter’s Legacy) and the sci-fi genre. With issue #3 Millar and Stuart Immonen (All New X-Men) continue what began straight away as an action packed comic full of fantastic adventure. It’s one unforeseen obstacle after another, as our heroes – still on the run since the first issue – face life or death situations around every corner. Their “ship”, a teleportation device that can take them anywhere it can see, proves to be as much a blessing as a hindrance and only time will tell if they’ll reach their destination, get caught, or end up stranded in between.

Comic book readers may roll their eyes at yet another science fiction book showing up on the shelves. They may even ask, “Do we really need another one?” It’s a fair enough question, and one that could be applied to just about any genre, but sci-fi may be a little different. Whereas historical pieces retell what is known, and supernatural stories depict things you may be unaware of, science fiction dares to imagine what things may come. For the skeptics, one answer might be that it’s just pure fun. And leave it to accomplished creators, like Mark Millar and Stuart Immonen to work in the genre in a way that both capitalizes on what’s been done while at the same time taking it to new heights. No matter what you think about the genre’s saturation on the industry, there’s no denying that everyone working on this comic book is having a lot of fun.

Speculative fiction is something that has fascinated modern man for as long as advanced futuristic societies could be imagined, not to mention a fascination with the consequential nature of boundary pushing. Space travel, alien worlds, fringe science, ray guns and teleportation – it’s all displayed best on the pages of a comic where the art alone does what movies and television struggle to accurately represent. Immonen and his frequent collaborator, inker Wade von Grawbadger, are blowing the doors of this new series, with everything from homages of Blade Runner to purely original designs. Their attention to detail adds a dimension that makes it hard to read, if only because you can’t stop gawking at the beautiful panels, which are comprised of fast moving images and a constant sense of motion. The action is fueled by Millar as he does what he does best, providing a story that’s charged by the genre itself. Costume design, ship design, creature design, it is all there and not just for the heck of it. The full throttle aspect of this book leads you to believe they’re putting down everything and anything they can imagine and that translates as a very positive reading experience. Mark Millar’s writing is so quick and witty in Empress that it’s amazing he has time for character development at all. But he does and we get to know them as the story progresses no matter how rapidly paced it may be. It’s one man’s mission to maintain the safety of the royal family – minus the patriarch – he’s sworn to protect, albeit now for personal reasons. Those reasons come to the surface steadily but, make no mistake, this is an action-first kind of story.

Ive Svorcina (Thor) brings everything into a sort of hyper-reality with his colors adding a new, rich layer to the art. This is as much his world as anyone else’s. He fully renders every single detail while meeting the challenge of constant panel-by-panel scene changes. One misstep and the story’s pace will be thrown of course but luckily we’re in good hands. Laser blasts, explosions, extraordinary landscapes, incredible monsters, armor, robotics and space ships all seem to be in Svorcina’s wheelhouse.

Issue #3 of Empress shows no signs that the series is slowing down and, as was the case with the first two issues, begs you to grab the next one. Almost unbelievably, the story seems to be picking up pace and only getting better.


About The Author Matthew Strackbein

Matt Strackbein was born and raised in Maryland but has called Colorado home for the last 17 years where he lives happily in Longmont with his wife. He began reading comic books at the age of seven after discovering a silver age stash in his grandparents’ attic. Comic books inspired Matt to start drawing, which lead to a successful career as a commercial artist. He has worked in the apparel industry for many years as a production artist and designer. His accomplishments include designing backcountry skiwear for world-class athletes as well as downhill ski race suit designs for the 2014 Winter Olympics for the United States and Canadian national ski teams. Matt currently works as a freelance textile-print designer, but still dedicates time to his first love – comics. With over 200 letters to the editor published, Matt is a known letterhack. He self-publishes autobiographical comics about his struggles to break into the industry, which finally paid off when Dark Horse asked him to produce 2-page back up stories in recent issues of B.P.R.D. Besides his own comics, Matt collaborates on independent books as a colorist and letterer. He also teaches the art of making comics to students of all ages.