Now we’re talking! This is the kind of new comics week we have been dreaming about since the shutdown in March.
Marvel’s Empyre saga is unfolding nicely and the long-awaited Batman Joker War is starting off with a bang. Either of these multi-issue crossovers could tank (remember Atlantis Attacks?) or end up with an unfulfilling close (almost every Marvel and DC free-for-all in the past five years), but so far both companies are making the books more than worth the coin.
Five issues relating to Empyre shipped this week, starting with the slightly bloated Emperor Hulking to the best-of-the-bunch, Empyre #2.
What began as another Kree-Skrull war saga has evolved into something unexpected with the militarization of the pacifist Cotati plant people. There is so much comic history in these titles that older collectors are lapsing into comic-induced comas.
First there is the Cotati themselves, who were introduced way back in 1975 in Avengers #133. These harmless plant creatures just wanted to hang out and breathe in carbon dioxide. Now we learn more about the painful history of the Cotati at the hands of the Kree and Skrull, and it ain’t good.
Without revealing too much, it turns out the plant folk have been doing more than just getting some sun in the Blue Area of the Eath’s Moon; they’ve been preparing for some payback.
The Avengers and an outsized roster of superheros thought they would be fighting the Kree and the Skrull. But they find themselves allied with the alien races in a bitter struggle to stop the plant people from taking over the universe, starting with Earth.
The series is also a chance to bring back a bunch of B-list Marvel characters we have not seen in while, like The Black Knight, Man-Thing, Wiccan, Wonder Man (where has he been?), a badass Swordsman, Ka-Zar, Dr. Nemesis, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, who is back to his old arrogant self.
This makes sense; if the whole universe is in trouble, all the reserves should come out to play.
There are more issues to go in the series, so don’t get overwhelmed too early. Al Ewing, Dan Slott, Jim Zub, Jonathan Hickman, and others are writing at the top of their game and the art is incredible across the board. Manuel Garcia,Valerio Schiti, Paco Medina and others are putting out their best work in months; maybe all that free time they had after the plague hit is paying off?
One quick aside: I recently invested in a bunch of new comics from a small press company that will remain nameless and was horrified at the weak writing and art–especially the art. Much of it looked like it came from a high schooler’s notebook. Seeing that end of the spectrum makes me appreciate the work of the pros.
These early Empyre books are vital to understanding the whole series, so don’t wait until they are sold out.
THE JOKER WAR
Across the publishing aisle, DC has been teasing us with the Joker War for months and it’s finally here,
Officially, the war starts in Batman #95, with Mr. J doing a lot of gloating and laughing since he organized a financial takeover of Wayne Industries.
This event will not be as long as Empyre, but it will fill up the rest of the summer, wrapping up in Batman #100.
Writer James Tynion IV and artist Jorge Jimenez are handling the main story books in Batman, and are making the Joker the kind of insane killer we have come to expect.
Even more exciting is the announcement of the release of the first issue of the three part Batman: Three Jokers by Geoff Johns, Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson.
Five years ago, Johns introduced the idea that there were three different Jokers in different time periods but stopped there. We also learned that The Joker may be more than human, which would explain his escape from death after death.
But the full explanation of the Three Jokers concept has only been touched on and not yet thoroughly examined. The first issue, in DC’s oversized, handsome (and a little more expensive) Black Label format, comes out in August.
Until next time, see you at the comic shop!