Things in the Marvel Universe are big right now, thanks to the the publishers massive Empyre blockbuster storyline putting the combined forces of the Avengers and Fantastic Four with the newly unified Kree and Skrulls against the plant-based, villainous Cotati. As with most major events, along with the core series, the Empyre storyline veers into multiple one-offs and mini-series. Here are two that not only compliment the story, but that stand on their own as well.
Lords of Empyre: Emperor Hulkling
Writers: Chip Zdarsky + Anthony Oliveira
Artist: Manuel Garcia
If you’re following Empyre but don’t want to break the bank picking up every title affiliated with the story, I’d recommend you put Lords of Empyre: Emperor Hulkling at the top of your list. The book gives us the essential backstory of Teddy Altman, the Young Avenger known as Hulkling and the offspring of a union between a Kree and Skrull. In the main series, Teddy has already been placed as the Emperor of the Kree and Skrulls; here is where we find out how it all went down.
One of the standout pieces of Lords of Empyre: Emperor Hulkling is how writers Zdarsky and Oliveira do a wonderful job highlighting the relationship between Hulkling and his boyfriend Wiccan. Theirs is the most high profile LGBTQ relationship in Marvel Comics, and Hulkling’s choice to lead the Kree-Skrull alliance has serious repercussions for the duo. The story takes the space to make you care about the characters and their relationship, adding an important layer to Hulkling and his new journey.
Writers: Jonathan Hickman + Tini Howard
Artist: Matteo Buffagni
When you’re reading crossovers, you want the stories to matter to the storyline. That may seem obvious, but it doesn’t always work out that way. However, Empyre: X-Men isn’t one of those examples. Not only does the book matter to Empyre, but it ties in beautifully with the world of the X-Men that Jonathan Hickman has been crafting as the steward of the mutants.
I don’t want to give much away, but I will tell you that the story focuses on what can only be considered another in a long line of bad decisions by the Scarlet Witch. The character has gone through so much grief in her history, it’s actually quite amazing that there’s more to pull out of her. Hickman and co-writer Tini Howard manage to do so in a compelling way, while also tying the plant-based Cotati into the sentient mutants island of Krakoa.
Even if you’re not reading the main Empyre series, this issue matters to the X-Men, which makes it an essential purchase in my mind.