REVIEW: ‘Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Celestial Messiah #1

Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah #1 is published by Marvel Comics, written by Alex Paknadel, with art by Alex Lins, colors by Matt Yakey, and letters by Ariana Maher. Quoi stands on the verge of greatness. He is said to be the Celestial Messiah. But to his people, the Cotati, he must still prove his worth. A ceremony awaits. And if he succeeds, the universe may burn.

Sometimes it seems like far too much of our lives are shaped before we ever take our first breaths. That the choices of our parents mold so much of what will we get to be. And while I won’t launch into a full-blown discourse on nature vs nature in human development, I can’t help but notice the pattern forming in these Lords of Empyre one-shots. Just as Hulkling’s place seems determined by his parents’ choice of partners, gifting him with a unique makeup combining two warring factions, so too does Quoi’s future comes to be through who his parents were. It makes one wonder how much different the world could be if everyone came into the world free of these preconceived conditions. If we truly got to be blank slates. Free to forge our own paths. Maybe someday…

Before the Cotati will accept Quoi as their Celestial Messiah he must undergo a rite of passage. A spiritual cleansing to prove his fitness to lead. Unexpectedly, this challenge ends up taking the form of a heart to heart with his mother, the hero Mantis.

When the ritual begins Mantis senses what is happening and, despite being many light-years away, projects herself to her son’s side in order to help him. She knows what the Cotati plan for him. And as hopefully any mother would, she attempts to sway her son from this blood-soaked path. It is this confrontation that fills the pages of Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah #1.

It never ceases to amaze me how arguments about alien species and intergalactic wars can feel so familiar. Paknadel accomplishes this through how he frames, not the subject in discussion, but the positions of those arguing.

Mantis knows the weight of prophecy all too well. Having spent much of her life called the Celestial Madonna, nothing but perfection was good enough from her in the eyes of those around her. She was told her place was set. Her path of destiny was immutable. She fought against it and chose her own road. And she would see her son be free of those chains. It feels all too natural for a parent to wish to see their child free of the struggles they had to overcome. This is what Mantis wants. But like many parents, she struggles to see her child in the discussion. Projecting her wants in his place.

Quoi sees his mother, not as a source of strength, but instead as an example of failure. Through their psychic link, he sees her past and times she made questionable choices. And while those choices don’t really involve what is being discussed at the moment he uses them simply to discredit her. To justify ignoring her. Since she has made mistakes she is no one to try to help him. It makes no logical sense, and yet it is one of the most common arguments I’ve seen people make. Rather than focus on what is being told to him, he focuses on who is doing the telling. Wisdom is wisdom. Where it comes from should never affect that.

To accompany the emotional narrative of Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah #1 is an artistic presentation that goes to great lengths to reinforce the many emotional moments within the story. Both Mantis and Quoi’s emotions are laid bare, with plenty of emphases put on them. And artist Lins does a wonderful job with the moments that happen in the past. By utilizing a separate art style for the past sequences they always come across as striking. They present their side of the story with a look that feels like you are seeing an old movie. Something captured long ago. This impression of age to the past sequences is helped greatly by Yawkey’s colorwork. Compared to the modern moments in the book, the past sequences have a washed outlook. Like pictures that have seen too much sun.

Lastly, the letter work by Maher in Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah #1 does a fine job conveying its story. It delivers the plot in a clear and easy to read fashion.

There was a lot more in Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah #1 than I expected. The confrontation between mother and son hit home extremely well. There is a lot of emotion in these pages. If you find yourself enjoying the larger Empyre storyline I would strongly recommend picking this book up. It gives a great background for one of its key players in a manner that hits home in an all too familiar way. After all, what person hasn’t screamed at their parent from a few parsecs away?

Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah #1 is available on August 5th wherever comics are sold.


4.5

TL;DR

There was a lot more in Lords of Empyre: Celestial Messiah #1 than I expected. The confrontation between mother and son hit home extremely well. There is a lot of emotion in these pages. If you find yourself enjoying the larger Empyre storyline I would strongly recommend picking this book up. It gives a great background for one of its key players in a manner that hits home in an all too familiar way. After all, what person hasn’t screamed at their parent from a few parsecs away?