By Mark Millar, Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger and Ive Svorcina

Empress #6 finally takes a pause from the non-stop thrill ride it’s been since issue #1. It had to happen, but luckily for us, it seems this may just be the calm before the storm as this issue ends with the ominous line “to be concluded”. Empress has been so exciting and flat-out action-packed since the get-go, pushing the characters through the story at a breathless pace. Scene changes mean instantly and repeatedly traveling between worlds, cliffhangers happen on every other page, and it would seem no one is ever entirely safe. The entire series so far has been one lengthy harrowing escape sequence. So of course the big question has become, how long can they run before the ultimate danger catches up to them? As the series heads toward the finish line we can only assume that time is up. Mark Millar once again leaves us in suspense and so we’ll have to wait and see if Dane and company manage to escape once and for all, or if their efforts are all for nothing.

This is by no means the first science-fiction story about a family caught up in dire straits, but it’s definitely more complex than normal. Loyalty and betrayal are based on a variety of reasons, some logical and some emotional, but it’s those dynamics that will capsize any sense of security our heroes may currently have. Although it’s definitely not a slow issue totally void of action, it is set to a more moderate pace by comparison. Maybe they’ve been running too hard, come too close to death too many times and can’t help but rest. Unfortunately for them, comfort and doom alike come in the form of family once again, and so any sense of loyalty may turn out to be a facade as they take shelter with yet another relative. Our friends may learn the hard way that they should just keep moving and trust no one.

To say that this issue takes a pause isn’t actually fair because it is still exciting and full of drama. Flipping through the pages without actually reading anything may not be enough to notice any difference from previous issues, because the artwork is as dynamic as ever. Stuart Immonen and Wade von Grawbadger continuously produce dense and fully realized sets and environments. There are details that are there for the sake of creating a believable world and not necessarily part of the story. Whether its alien creatures, or otherworldly vehicles and buildings, the artwork in Empress will surely go down as the most memorable part. No offense to the writing, which is clearly an accomplishment even for Millar, but Immonen and von Grawbadger are at the top of their game and the peak of their longtime collaboration. Ive Svorcina enhances every detail with incredibly vibrant and dynamic colors. Costume design is as fantastic as an explosion. The sky can be as intense as rocket fire. It’s as if every page of Millar’s scripts include a mandate like, “go big everywhere on everything all the time”.

Fortunately everyone on this team is up to the task making it tough not to give this book the highest possible rating. After five straight issues of constant momentum, it makes sense that things quiet down at least a little before the conclusion. The next 30 days is gonna be a long wait, but you can bet it’ll be totally worth it.

empress6-final-1

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.