Beginning with Marvel Comics #1000, and more directly with the 2019 Incoming #1, Marvel Comics began building to a cosmic war event, with Empyre #1 launching in April 2020. The event promises to bring the Avengers and Fantastic Four together against a cosmic Kree and Skrull threat that connects back heavily to Marvel Cosmic stories told since the publisher’s earliest days.
Today I’ll answer:
+ What comics set the stage for understanding this event?
+ Why Marvel’s promotional strategy for Empyre is so refreshing
+ Expectations and theories for the event
Please note spoilers for discussed background reading may follow.
Before digging into the comics and stories that set up Empyre, it’s worth calling out a few big differences between Empyre and Marvel’s last few years of big events. Whereas the likes of War of the Realms and Absolute Carnage were both very clearly built on the backs of specific creator visions (Jason Aaron on Thor, and Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman on Venom), Empyre is more indebted to Marvel’s history of Kree/Skrull storylines.
I’ve thought about it, and the approach of a major universe-wide event that doesn’t deliberately build out of a particular ongoing series is not a confidence-infusing background. The two least organic event builds of the past decade are 2013’s Age of Ultron and 2016’s Civil War II, and at my most charitable the best I can say about the events is that I liked parts of Age of Ultron.
I talked about this a fair amount with War of the Realms, but it really helps to have the goodwill, strategy, and creative vision of a successful series driving to a universe-wide all-caps comic book EVENT.
Empyre is – at least on the surface – forsaking that approach, but with a caveat. On one hand, the creative team of Al Ewing, Dan Slott, and Valerio Schitti, do not have an ongoing series between them, and although Slott’s near 20 issues on Fantastic Four will begin to tie-in to Empyre in 2020, Ewing’s most high-profile work – the Immortal Hulk – is simply not a part of this event pitch. So by traditional measures, Empyre is kind of out of the blue.
That said, Marvel is quickly attempting to ground the event two ways. The first is through Ewing’s work writing potentially related teases in the pages of Marvel Comics #1000, and then Ewing and Slott’s work writing the teaser material in Incoming #1 (more on this in a moment). More clear even, is Marvel’s promotional effort to tie Empyre to some of their Kree vs Skrull greatest hits.
Honestly, I love this approach and find it greatly refreshing. Marvel is leaning in to their vast continuity, calling back to storylines from 1971, the mid to late 1970s, 1984, 2005, and 2019! For Marvel fans who can’t help but dig into the entire decades long shared universe, it’s a suggestion that all that history is building to a payoff (As a writer, Al Ewing has shown a particular knack for weaving deep lore into modern stories as well). While this can be intimidating for newer readers, I actually agree with the instinct that more often than not, passionate new readers will simply seek out explanations for the history they don’t know, rather than away frightened!
So without further ado, let’s address the history that we know will set the stage for Empyre, no matter how tangentially it may do so.
You can check out the full guide on Comic Book Herald’s Empyre reading order!