Empyre: X-Men #1 is published by Marvel Comics, written by Jonathan Hickman and Tini Howard, with art by Matteo Buffagini, colors by Nolan Woodard, and lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles. This series is part of a bigger comic book storyline, “Empyre,” which follows the events of a one-shot comic book issue “Incoming!” and features various heroes of the Marvel universe teaming up to prevent the invasion of the Kree/Skrull armada.
In Empyre: X-Men #1, the X-Men finally return to Genosha, but it’s a harrowing event. Due to the influence of the Scarlet Witch, millions of mutants rise as undead creatures to wander the desolate wasteland of Genosha. To make matters worse, before the X-Men arrive, Genosha is invaded by alien plant people. We now have a standoff between alien plants and mutant zombies with the X-Men stuck in the middle of it.
If this doesn’t remind you a bit of Plants vs. Zombies, you’ve been living under a rock. Suffice it to say, Marvel knows that they’re playing with an already established theme and they’re leaning into it, hard. Honestly, this is the last plotline I expected to come out of Marvel Comics, but, despite it sounding very odd, it is surprisingly entertaining.
This is in part because the writers know this plotline is humorous and don’t try to present it in any other way. The few serious moments in Empyre: X-Men #1 consist of plot set-up at the beginning and characterization of the alien plant people. Readers get to see a bit of the new world order set up in the Powers of X and House of X plotlines, but then all seriousness flies out the window once the X-Men set foot on Genosha.
The dialogue is profound in some places, witty in others, and hands-down hilarious near the end of the issue. The writers definitely aren’t taking this plotline very seriously and that’s where a lot of the fun is had. They’ve introduced some wacky characters and they’ve even subtly assimilated some of the themes of Plants vs. Zombies, for example by having the X-Men deal with waves of zombies. There’s even some good plant-based snark to be had.
The plot and dialogue may be all fun and games, but the art and coloring are absolutely stunning and give the story some sense of reality. The art is expressive and produces some dynamic fight scenes while the colors set the tone and place of each panel. But, specifically, the way the alien plants and mutant zombies are drawn is wonderful. The designs of the plant people are not only aesthetically intriguing but each of the main characters we see is individualistic and has various characteristics that resemble some form of terrestrial flora. Even though the creative team has chosen to depict zombies outside of the usual gore and body horror people in the genre may be used to, the zombies are still very creepy.
Although the theme and plotline of Empyre: X-Men #1 was not something I would ever expect to come out of Marvel Comics, the issue remains entertaining in part because the writers embrace the absurdity and lean into the humor of the situation. On the other hand, the art is gorgeous and really does well to support the story, as silly as it might be.
Empyre: X-Men #1 is available now wherever comic books are sold.
Empyre: X-Men #1
Although the theme and plotline of Empyre: X-Men #1 was not something I would ever expect to come out of Marvel Comics, the issue remains entertaining in part because the writers embrace the absurdity and lean into the humor of the situation.