There’s never been a guide that would help anyone navigate the sudden upheavals in life. If there was, teenage girls wouldn’t call their homicidal and tyrannical fathers when they see something they’re not quite ready to understand. Of course, this has applications in the real world, but I’m just concerned with how it sets up the fantastic finale of the first volume of Empress. Holy. Crap. I’ve, at times, wondered at the pace of this book, looking for some time to slow down and take a harder look at these characters, and it seems that Millar had something spectacular planned for the reveals all the while. This has been an explosive and exciting journey so far, but the sheer badassery of this issue leaps well above and beyond what led up to it and secures its place in my must-reads of 2016. Storytelling done right with incredible action, deep and multifaceted characters, and humor in all the right places, Empress has been consistently one of my favorite titles this year.
Mark Millar has been known to play things close and drop some bombs on readers, and this finale is no exception. There's a little bit of The Usual Suspects to the reveal, but it's a satisfying delivery of what is one of the best reveals I've encountered recently. It certainly work better than anything the Big Two have dropped on us in recent memory. The core of the experience comes down to how well any of us really know each other, and what we do when we strive to learn about or ignore the clues that our partners give us. How much can you trust a person when you want to ignore parts of their life? Is bliss worth not knowing intimate details that may open up huge parts of their lives to you? This series started as an allegory for a woman escaping an abusive partner, and the finale pays off with showing true strength and grit on the part of our heroine. There's also a pretty clear indication that Millar would like to revisit this world on the final page, so I doubt we've seen the last of this crew.
Stuart Immonen can really breathe life into a fight scene. There are panels in here that made me cringe a little. There's a good bit of viciousness in the characters, and it ALL comes out in this one. A lot of it is tied to the big reveal that I'm not giving away, but even before that we get some great moments of tension and "oh crap" moments. The stakes have never seemed higher, and for the first time you'll find yourself wondering how they'll ever manage to get out of things. The whole art team rocks it out on this book, with phenomenal action and wondrous lines throughout. The vibrancy of the art is impressive as always, and coupled with the big finish, it raises to unbelievable standards.
If you were waiting this long to see if this book was worth picking up, get down to your shop and find the back issues now. This thing has been one of the best sci-fi yarns in a good long while. Though the cast list is smaller and not quite as dynamic as Saga, the epic nature of the series brings it on par with that stellar work. This is space opera at a level that rivals Star Wars (the good parts), and if this ends up just being the first act, then I, for one, am quite excited as to where Mr. Millar and company take us next.
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