Wakanda is under siege!
The Cotati have taken root on Earth and are waging war across the planet with their sights on Wakanda’s fertile vibranium-rich soil. Can Earth’s Mightiest Heroes fend off the plant incursion? Will the Celestial Messiah succeed in ridding the universe of animal-based life forms? Can Mantis convince him otherwise? Will the Kree/Skrull Alliance use the Pyre? Let’s find out in Empyre #4 & 5!
We begin issue four with Kl’rt the Super-Skrull and Captain Marvel catching us up on the fight against the Cotati planet-side. In Carol’s mind the best course of action is avoiding the Pyre option from the issue 3 as much as possible. Emperor Hulkling has come to a change of heart after sleeping on his earlier decision not to use the Pyre. He has come to the “realization” that there is no other option than to sacrifice Earth for the greater good. Carol and Johnny Storm are shocked by this sudden character shift for Hulkling and Carol uses her accuser hammer to detect if Teddy is actually Teddy. The test comes back positive, leading Carol and Johnny to attack Hulkling for even thinking that sacrificing the Earth was a good idea. After a short fight against Kl’rt and Captain Glory, Hulkling dispatches the ship’s mystic against our heroes but instead she opts to teleport them to Hulkling’s boyfriend Wiccan’s apartment.
Meanwhile Tony Stark is still coping with being tricked by the Cotati earlier by doing what he does best, building Iron Man suits, while Reed Richards acts as both a voice of understanding and reason. In Wakanda, Black Panther continues to battle the Cotati forces pushing towards the Great Vibranium Mound. Though not able to make headway in pushing the plants back, T’Challa has been able to hold them off. Mantis and crew catch Sequoia and Swordsman off guard enough for the diplomatic portion of T’Challa’s plan to be implemented. Mantis appeals to her son’s sense of humanity one last time, decrying how all this death and destruction won’t breed light and peace. She points out the Kree / Skrull Alliance and how they stopped trying to destroy each other and were able to finally make peace between their two races. This isn’t the best example to use with Quoi as he’s reminded of how both of those people tried to eradicate the Cotati and are trying to do the same on Earth. It’s here that She-Hulk starts to advocate for the Cotati’s side and reveals herself to be a sleeper agent (called it!), attacking her friends with a gamma blast.
So how exactly were the Cotati able to turn Jen Walters into a plant? It wasn’t mind control or shapeshifting. It was murder! They actually killed She-Hulk and resurrected her as a Cotati much like how they resurrected Swordsman. She’s basically a Cotati wearing a She-Hulk skin and since she was already green, the heroes didn’t even notice. She-Hulk then starts dismantling The Thing like he was the Berlin Wall while Mantis and Sue Richards watch in horror and Sequoia leaves.
Back at Wiccan’s apartment, Billy is using his magic to look into Carol’s mind and see what is happening with Hulkling. From everything he can gleam, based on what Carol and Johnny saw, he confirms that it’s not Teddy. Carol brings up how the scanner on her hammer tested positive for Hulkling but Billy knows that the tech can be fooled. We end the issue with Wiccan explaining that from the way the imposter held himself to the way his mouth twitched, that Hulkling is not the man he married.
We pick up issue five with the wedding of Hulkling and Wiccan. It was one of those spur of the moment things where Teddy and Billy had mere minutes before Teddy had to go off and become Emperor. So where do you go when you want to get married in a pinch? Why Vegas, of course! That’s right, Wiccan and Hulkling had a quickie wedding in Las Vegas and luckily for them most of their closest friends were either speedsters or teleporters and were able to join the couple for their happy moment. So since they are now hitched, Wiccan mentions that he and Teddy are also magically bonded, meaning that Billy can find the real Hulkling and free him from whatever situation the Kree / Skrulls may have put him in. Carol, Johnny and Billy set out to do that.
In Wakanda, Mantis’ diplomatic mission failed. The Cotati agent wearing She-Hulk’s skin is pounding Ben Grimm into a rocky pulp. Usually the Thing is able to hold some of his ground against a Hulk, but this time it’s different. This time he’s facing a Hulk with the single purpose of trying to kill him and not even Susan Richards’ force fields can stop her. Of course the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing isn’t gonna give up so easily. He’s determined to avenge Jen Walters, defend his family, and he’s ready for a fight against all odds.
Speaking of fights against the odds, Black Panther is still holding his own against the Cotati invasion even though he’s basically been whittled down to an army of one. It’s an awesome fight where he orders the Wakandan air support to fire on his position as he dodgers every shot while taking down Cotati left and right. Unfortunately it doesn’t save him from ultimately being overrun by the alien forces. They march into Wakanda and open up a portal to bring Sequoia and Swordsman there to plant one of their death seeds and Swordsman kills Black Panther.
On the Kree / Skrull Alliance flagship, Billy, Johnny and Carol have found the real Hulkling all chained up like The Man in the Iron Mask and confront the Alliance about the fake Hulkling’s treachery. In this confrontation, Tanalth is revealed to be the fake Emperor and it’s also revealed that she already set the Pyre plan in motion. So, the Kree & Skrulls are trying to nuke Earth, the Cotati have taken hold of Wakanda and are about to deploy their master weapon, and Earth’s heroes are losing miserably. Who’s left to save the planet? Why Reed and Tony of course! Tony has finally gotten out of his failure funk and built an Iron Man suit for Mr. Fantastic. We end the issue with a look at the Fantastic Iron suit and the two getting ready to save the Earth.
So to me, Empyre #4 encapsulates everything I don’t like about this event. Like I said in my review for issue three, nothing seems to be happening and what does is moving at a snail’s pace towards a seemingly anti-climactic final issue. Honestly I really have nothing further to critique about this issue aside from the fact that it’s just really boring. The Kree / Skrull portion of the story is a bit predictable. The Battle of Wakanda is barely present and the Reed / Tony stuff, while nice, is quite banal. For me the only saving grace for this book was the explanation of She-Hulk’s “betrayal”. I had my money on her being mind-control but actually killing and replacing Jen Walters was a different touch along with the undercover aspect of the Cotati-She-Hulk. It gets a little sketchy because when they bring back a human as a hybrid (like Swordsman) they have green skin and Jen is already green but do all green Hulks really look alike? Did no one really notice it wasn’t She-Hulk? Also didn’t they just kill She-Hulk in the last Infinity event? Overall this issue is fairly uneventful but not awful by any means. Nothing happens but nothing is outright terrible. The artwork is still pretty choice though.
Verdict: 5/10 Cotati Sleeper Agents
Empyre #5 is an improvement and step up for the event. There’s a lot more to see and enjoy, from the wedding of Wiccan and Hulkling to Black Panther’s last stand. Speaking of which, this event had me worried since Incoming #1 that Billy and Teddy would end up on the outs and be broken up at some point. I’m glad that they’ve not only stuck together through their trials and tribulations but are now Mr. and Mr. Kaplan-Altman. Props to Marvel for fully addressing this while not going full “Marvel” about it, and trying to draw a lot of attention while patting themselves on the back for diversity. I could spend all day on that end but my point is that I’m happy for those crazy kids and this was a good way to begin the issue. Black Panther’s last stand was pretty bad ass, though I doubt he’s actually dead. Ben Grimm’s fight against the She-Hulk imposter is cool, and Tony Stark has finally got himself together to tease how he and Reed will save the world. Story wise this issue is pretty fun, though it does seem that Tony just snaps out of his funk without any real development or reasoning. As for the Kree / Skrull portion, it’s still just ok and along with other areas of the story it feels like I missed something. I probably did in one of the multiple tie-in issues. Anyway, this was a good issue but a bit crammed as a penultimate issue. I’m hoping that the next issue can stick the landing.
Verdict: 7/10 Minutes Before Earth is Destroyed
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