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Empress #4

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By Mark Millar, Stuart Immonen, Wade vonGrawbadger, and Ive Svorcina

Empress continues to be a super fast-paced comic with tons of action. Issue #4 does nothing to slow down the momentum and keeps giving us new settings and characters on top of it. Anything can happen from panel to panel and that’s part of what is making Empress such a fun series. Down time amounts to anxiety filled isolation. In fact, it sort of mirrors what the reader may potentially feel as the action takes the briefest of pauses. Characters and reader alike only want the story to progress and keep moving. If the pace suddenly stopped now, after moving so rapidly, we may all going hurdling into space along with the essence of what makes Empress a worthwhile science-fiction comic book.

Besides the pacing, Mark Millar (Reborn) has yet to lose sight of the core purpose of this comic, which is to magnify the possibilities of the wildly improbable. If you like what Millar and company have been doing with this book already, then you’re going to love this issue. But how long can they keep it up and is there a possibility that even a good high-energy adventure story like this can run dry? How much is too much when it comes to jumping from one planet or atmosphere after another? It may be fun to ride along in a racecar at 200mph, but how long before your stomach begins to turn and you’ve had enough? When it comes to Empress, the answer to those questions should be something like, “Let’s find out!”

There will likely be a point in the very near future, however, where the villain could appropriately reappear. Our heroes are on the run after all and without someone chasing them the story suspends its relevance. Oh, there are plenty of people and places to avoid, or even escape from, but the ultimate threat is nowhere to be seen, which could indicate it is right around the corner. Safety is not something the main protagonists here have to look forward to and actually seem designed to oppose danger rather than survive it. They run head long into challenges and the unknown, as if there’s some sort of programming at play, which doesn’t allow them to sit still or take solace. Maybe there’s more to the story or maybe it’s just the makings of a good read and a fantastic comic book. Either way, Dane and his crew can only go on for so long before the ultimate threat will surely take matters into his own hands.

Penciler Stuart Immonen (All-New Captain America) and his faithful inking partner Wade vonGrawbadger (Fear Itself) might just be at the top of their games, tackling all manner of space craft, new and old, as well as elaborate cityscapes, alien worlds and plenty of new creatures page after page. The two of them obviously use a sort of shorthand with one another that allows them to keep up with the script’s divers scenery and settings. Backgrounds are occasionally simplified, or implied, but never sacrificed or diminished. There is detail and nuance that gives an overall sense of realness to every person and structure.

Flawlessly picking up where the artists leave off is colorist Ive Svorcina (Secret Wars). Svorcina’s work is like a sonic boom! It explodes off the page with a resonating effect that lasts for a long time. In a book lacking dull moments, it’s important that each panel does its job to create visual excitement. It’s a cliché to say that the colors “pop”, but in this case they really do serve a purpose way beyond enhancing black and white line art. Svorcina not only brings the artwork to life, but balances colors in a single scene that conflict between warm and cool palettes. The way Svorcina does it allows intensely warm colors to disrupt a soothing tonal story in the most harmonious way possible.

Empress is a masterpiece in the making. No matter what the next conflict may be – more dangerous situations, or the big villain – if the previous four issues are any proof, you can bet on one thing: it’s gonna be action-packed.

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