Written by Mark Millar
Drawn by Stuart Immonen
Publish by Icon/Marvel Comics
Mark Millar returns to Marvel Comics for this new series, published under their creator-owned Icon Imprint. I must say that I had high hopes for this title up initially hearing about it. First, because of his collaborator and co-creator Stuart Immonen, whose work I have always enjoyed, including on one of my all-time favorite Superman stories, Superman: Secret Identity, with Kurt Busiek. Plus, I very much enjoyed Millar’s series STARLIGHT, and this sounded like it was in the same vein as that title, both being “homages” to Flash Gordon. While Starlight was basically “Flash Gordon Returns To Mongo As An Old Man For One Last Adventure”, Empress is essentially “What If Ming The Merciless’ Wife Dumped Him?”
Millar starts off with a little “plot twist” to set up this story. In that, instead of being set on some distant alien planet with advanced technology, it is actually set on Earth, 65 million years in the past. The idea is that over the 4 billion years of Earth’s existence there were other races before humans that evolved and created civilizations that eventually died out long before humanity came into existence. This highly advanced civilization, which co-existed alongside dinosaurs and also developed space travel, is lead by King Morax. And right from the opening scene he is shown to be a truly evil bastard. Where are quickly introduced to his wife, Emporia, who is secretly repulsed by her husbands actions. She devises a plan alongside her royal bodyguard, Dane, to get her and her three young children away from Morax, by stealing a space ship and getting off-planet (which is known as “ER” at the time). The escape is somewhat complicated by the fact that Emporia and Morax’s oldest child, a daughter named Aine, doesn’t want to leave her father, but Emporia takes her anyway. There are a bunch of gun and spaceship fights, which Immonen draws beautifully, but the family manages to get into space, headed where they think Morax won’t find them. And it ends with Morax being told of his wife’s deception and being determined to get them back.
All the needed story “beats” where there, I guess. But, ultimately, this issue just fell flat to me. Despite the action, I never felt a sense of urgency. Certain things you can already see coming a mile away (like the fact that Aine is at some point going to be betray her mother, or the likelyhood of a romance between Emporia and Dane). And I’ll admit I was bugged by the fact that for a pre-historic humanoid race, it sure seemed to be dominated by White people (yeah, I’m going there), which is just not how evolution works. But ultimately the point is that this story just didn’t hook me, like a first issue should. Therefor I don’t have any interest in continuing to buy and read the remainder of this series (which is to be 7 issues long).