The pandemic delayed the usual summer comics crossovers, but the first shots have finally been fired.
In Burbank, in the red Superman trunks, is DC Comics and “Death Metal.” In New York, in the blue Spider-Man leggings, is Marvel Comics and “Empyre.” Let the battle begin!
“Dark Nights: Death Metal” No. 1 arrived first, on June 16. My one complaint is that it’s a sequel, which means back issues or an explanation are generally needed to get started. So let’s deal with that:
In 2017, after a well-received 50-issue run on “Batman,” writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo launched “Dark Nights: Metal.”
It was an imaginative series of stories, introducing all kinds of big concepts, like the Dark Multiverse, which exists in parallel to the regular Multiverse, only it’s a place where all stories end badly. Plus it has lots of evil Batmen, some of which escape to our Multiverse, including the Batman Who Laughs, a combination Batman and Joker.
The Justice League defeated the Dark Multiverse, as you’d expect. But this time, the Justice League loses.
That’s where “Death Metal” begins, another Snyder/Capullo production full of big ideas and impossible odds. It’s comics at its best, if you can follow the concepts without your head exploding.
On June 24, Marvel Comics dropped “Empyre: Avengers” No. 0. Don’t let the oddball name and numbering fool you; this is the first issue of the “Empyre” crossover, a sequel decades in the making. It will be followed by “Empyre: Fantastic Four” No. 0, then the two teams will co-star in the core “Empyre” miniseries together.
Oh, wait, did I say a sequel? Yep, that means more Stories From the Back Issue Bin. Sorry. Here goes:
Back in the ’60s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby established two space-faring empires that hated each other, the Kree and the Skrull. (You may recognize those names from the movies.) In the early ’70s, they tried to wipe each other out, with the Earth caught in the middle, in what is famous among fans as “The Kree/Skrull War.”
A few years later, we learned why the Kree and Skrull hated each other, and it involved a third race, a pacifist, treelike people called the Cotati. Around about the time we learned this, a time traveler from the 31st century named Kang the Conqueror came to the 20th century in pursuit of a “Celestial Madonna” who would give birth to the “Celestial Messiah.” Take note of this, it’ll be important later. OK, now to the present. In “Empyre: Avengers,” we find out that a half-Kree and half-Skrull character named Hulkling has become emperor of both races, uniting them — against Earth. You’ll have to pick up the book to see what happens.
“Empyre: Avengers” No. 0 is brought to us by writer Al Ewing and artist Pepe Larraz, and I can find no fault with either. Like with DC and “Death Metal,” Marvel has put its best foot forward with “Empyre.” The two king-size crossovers will battle it out over the next weeks and months with one-shots, miniseries and guest appearances.
And it doesn’t matter which one outsells the other. The real winner will be us.