By Mark Millar, Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, Ive Svorcina and Sunny Gho
“Finally. An end to all the running.”
Well, we all knew that an action-packed thrill ride series like Empress would have an explosive finale to the first arc and Millar and co. do not disappoint one bit! Issue #7 is an extra length 48-page conclusion full of betrayal, revenge, pure ass-kicking fights, shoot-outs, and the endless escapes that we’ve gotten used to. Every issue so far has presented multiple new predicaments for Dane, the Queen, and her family, but no matter how dire the situation, our heroes have found a way to persevere. But it’s not quite that simple in this issue and you’ll have to read it to see for yourself what surprising twists occur. This book has always been about overcoming the odds and last minute escapes and rescues from certain doom. The latest issue is no different, except it’s become increasingly difficult to see just how things would turn out in any one character’s favor, whether they are on the side of good or evil.
Millar creates new story points while using familiar plot devices, that all at once make for an equal level of excitement as compared to the rest of the series while providing an all new perspective for the book overall. He shows no signs of letting up the fast paced storytelling Empress has become known for and uses this “ending” of sorts to launch the series in a new direction, which for now feels oddly calm, though there’s hints that nothing is as it seems. Take into account that this issue alone has some of the most explosive pages yet and you’ll realize that as far as action goes, you’re in good hands with Empress.
This entire series is about going big, and that’s an understatement. There are scenes that would cost millions and millions of dollars to recreate as a movie, but here we get it all for the cover price of a comic book. There are moments that happen so fast it just wouldn’t translate to the big screen the way it does on the printed page. In a world of action adventure and science fiction epics hitting the theaters on a regular basis, there’s still no competing with comics when it comes to pulling out all the stops. Each time a new creator comes along and pushes the medium to places readers hadn’t expected, you get folks like Mark Millar and Stuart Immonen who use good, old-fashioned storytelling elements in ways no one else has. Empress is essentially one big, epic chase sequence, but to stretch it out over seven issues with more breathless, action-oriented pacing than a standard year’s worth of books could hold, you know there’s no end to their creativity and their ideas.
Although the writing is superb and Millar deserves a lot of credit for creating such a storyline without hiccups or speed bumps, the artwork is worthy of extremely high praise. New worlds and civilizations can alternate by the page, and that means all new cityscapes, creature and costume designs. Between drawing it and coloring it, one could see how the level of responsibility would quickly become exhausting, but not in this case. The combined efforts between Immonen, his loyal collaborator and inker Wade von Grawbadger, and colorists Ive Svorcina and Sunny Gho, have generated material enough for several re-readings without a single dull moment. If you go back over previous issues, you’ll no doubt realize that these guys never took shortcuts or used gimmicks to convey the story. Their embrace of meticulous detail and authenticity has not only branded this book with an exclusive level of originality, but it has also raised the bar for sci-fi books and comics in general. Immonen’s ability to layout more than one dynamic scene per page, for several pages in a row, for every single book is magnificent! You can tell he’s a co-creator on this title simply by his level of dedication. Whereas a single issue of any other comic would have an isolated climatic moment, Empress delivers countless opportunities for these artists in a sort of self-imposed challenge to keep going bigger and bigger every single panel, whether a fight scene or a dramatic, personal moment.
On top of all that, this is one of the most colorful books around, which is saying something for comics. One of the most impressive highlights of this series has been consistently bright, and saturated color palettes. No matter the bleak landscape or situation, there’s always something expressive and fun to look at. Most of the time, when a lightning-quick scene change occurred, the reader is cued by sudden and intense shift in tone, which relies heavily on color. Bouncing from one planet to another can seem like an easy task for the art team, but when it happens so repeatedly, the colorists have their work cut out for them, and Svorcina and Gho have outdone themselves. The expression, “never a dull moment,” has quite never felt so literal.
It’s going to be interesting, seeing where this series heads next, but one thing is for sure…Empress is a book to be admired by readers and industry pros alike. Five star series all the way!
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