Out this week in bookstores is writer Mark Millar and artist Stuart Immonen’s space opera Empress in a hardcover format. No better time to check this book out, especially since it was reported in May that producers Joe Roth (Alice in Wonderland) and Jeff Kirschenbaum will be adapting the series into a movie. We delve into its pages to answer the question, is it good?
Empress Book One (Marvel Comics)
So what’s it about? Collecting the first 7 issues, the summary reads:
Imagine you’re married to the worst bad guy from your favorite sci-fi movie. An alien dictator feared throughout the universe, who will kill you if you leave, but you need to escape for the sake of your three children. All you have are your wits, your bodyguard, and three guns. Welcome to EMPRESS, your new favorite comic.
Why does this book matter?
Don’t let this somewhat evil looking woman on the cover fool you — Empress is an epic space opera in every sense of the word. Multiple planets explored, various aliens, tons of action, incredible spacecrafts, romance, and death loom on every single page. Add to that Millar and Immonen’s pedigree and you have a must read title if you ever saw one.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
How pretty…and mean!
The art is simply great. If you’re a lover of science fiction or just like expressive characters this is the book for you. Immonen infuses every panel with life and creativity to the point where you wonder if he has some kind of magic mirror to see other worlds. In a panel focused on a protagonist walking in a city square you might have aliens observing a statue in the foreground simply there to add a bit of life to a scene. A lot of this book’s ingenuity stems from Immonen’s clean and gorgeous work. One could argue scenes are reminiscent of Blade Runner, but when you look closer you notice clever details in colors or graphics amongst the crowds. Credit is due to Ive Svorcina’s colors which are bright, but in a realistic sort of way that keeps the action edgy and dramatic. Inker Wade von Grawbadger keeps Immonen’s lines honest and clean adding a dimension to clothing that’s just beautiful.
Having read and loved Mark Millar’s Starlight series I had very high expectations for another science fiction story and he surpassed them. There’s a slight similarity between the protagonist in that series and the queen’s protector Dane in this book, that being they’re both rugged Flash Gordon types who are great at fighting and kicking alien butt. Outside of that, the setup and cast of characters is unique and intriguing.
So it’s like Star Wars as it’s a long time ago, but it’s actually on Earth. Cool!
The book opens on Earth 65 million years ago and surprisingly it’s filled with aliens and incredible technology. We quickly learn Earth’s ruler King Morax is a tyrant who Queen Emporia wants nothing to do with anymore. From there, Emporia flees with her children and Dane and the book follows their exploits to escape Morax for good. Along the way Dane implores a friend for aid, compelling abilities of alien life are introduced (you can switch bodies with an alien, eat all you want on a resort all the while they work out your original body!), and worlds are explored. In a somewhat Star Wars like fashion Millar has even integrated a cute robot you’ll grow to love. There’s a lot to enjoy in this book due to the colorful science fiction elements laid upon a breakneck plot.
Once about halfway through this volume it’s rather easy to see why it’s being adapted into a film and that’s due to all the action. There are family issues brought in via Emporia’s daughter–who disagrees with their fleeing and is strongly opposed to her mother falling in love with Dane–allowing strong character work throughout strung together via giant action scenes. Teleportation mishaps, spaceship chase sequences and incredible getaways continually keep the pace up and the fun very high. Each character seemingly has a function and a purpose in the volume (with a fantastic surprise to finish the book too) making every moment important.
The hardcover quality is pretty up there too. The slipcase is a thick material that will protect in fine fashion the book which hides a gold embossed title logo and Emporia on the front and a Millarworld logo on the back.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The romantic arc between Emporia and Dane is somewhat confusing. Avoiding spoilers here, but over half of the book leads you to believe their relationship is strictly business and then…well it’s not. Unless I didn’t pick up on visual cues, it leaves you feeling a bit misled though certainly not dissatisfied.
This is a nitpicking sort of gripe, but the cute robot friend of the heroes named Ship is a somewhat annoying plot convenience to say the least.
For a hardcover there’s no extras at all. Aside from a nice two page bio of each of the creators involved there isn’t any sketches or additional materials.
Well, he asked for it!
Is It Good?
Empress is incredible in so many ways you’ll be left in awe of how well it all comes together. There are moments where you can’t turn the page fast enough, though you still linger longer than you need to in order to enjoy the incredible art. If you’re a lover of Star Wars or simply love science fiction in general you will love every page of this book.