Saturday, 6 May 2017

Empress, Book One Review (Mark Millar, Stuart Immonen)


A long time ago (65 million years to be precise) in a galaxy not too far away… on Earth in fact! A sophisticated, yet deeply violent, space empire existed during the time of the dinosaurs led by Darkseid rip-off #576. His wife gets sick of his barbaric ways, takes their kids and runs – Darkseid-wannabe gives chase. And that’s Empress!

Space operas are seriously IN these days. Star Wars is murdering at the box office, as is Guardians of the Galaxy, and Saga is one of the biggest comics titles ever. I get the impression Mark Millar is a canny operator so I’m sure he noted the trend and decided “Me too!”. He’s done a space comic recently, the Flash Gordon pastiche Starlight, but thankfully Empress is better than that effort – though not by much. 

The story is exceedingly shallow and generic: Empress and her family, including her Han Solo-bodyguard/obvious love interest, get into spaceship battles/chases, pew-pew laser-gun fights on alien worlds and there’s ‘splosions aplenty. In other words, it’s full of stuff from any number of space operas that have gone before. 

As usual with Millar, the characters are paper-thin, mostly as we get almost no time getting to know them before the action starts up and keeps going for the entirety of the book. A lot of them are derivative too – I couldn’t tell you their names but I thought of them as Darkseid, Gamora, Han Solo, and Tyrion Lannister; Millar’s offering nothing new here. 

Stuart Immonen’s art is cool and I enjoyed some of the alien creatures/landscapes he drew. Mark Millar’s writing reads smoothly – partly because he’s a capable, experienced comics writer but largely because he leans heavily on (if not outright steals) scenes, storylines and characters we’ve seen in other, better stories elsewhere – though the overall effect is uninteresting, insubstantial and uninspired. 

The choices in this book are too safe, too mainstream – but then Millar’s in the film storyboard business these days, not comics. The book screams “Option Me For a Mindless Blockbuster Popcorn Summer Movie!”, which, of course, it has. Le sigh. I was unimpressed for the most part and never got caught up in the story which felt lazy, cynical and exploitative, like many of Millar’s recent books. Empress is a flashy space adventure that’s easy to read but it’s too unmemorable and unoriginal for my taste.

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