Mark Waid & Barry Kitson's Empire is back... for the third time and at its third publisher.
I wasn't present for the original release of Empire and its premature death at Image Comics after merely two issues. However, it became a series I heard about from my friends. In discussions about incomplete comic books they wished would come back, several of my friends would bring up Empire. It finally did return for six issues at DC Comics and I came aboard then, enjoying the series quite a bit. I didn't imagine there would be more Empire, yet here is the first volume of Empire: Uprising, published now by IDW.
Assuming you're unfamiliar with the set-up, Empire is set in a world where super-villains have won. An armored figure named Golgoth has killed (or otherwise incapacitated) every super hero on the planet and conquered every military power. Although various resistance forces have sprung up, none have been able to seriously challenge Golgoth. And yet, the various lieutenants who serve as Golgoth's ministers need something to keep themselves occupied and so they plot against each other - and also against Golgoth, believing that if he proves himself compromised in any way, it might be the opportunity they need to usurp his empire.
Being what it is, Empire tells a very bleak story; there is not one of the ministers who exhibits laudable behaviour. It's a world where the powerful prey upon the weak and no one can be trusted. The previous series ended with one minister going rogue and finding himself in contact with a resistance movement. If you think that means there is anything approaching hope in this tale, then I'm sorry to disappoint you: his guidance results in a resistance attack on Golgoth which - although it cleverly exploits Golgoth's affections for his deceased daughter - is ultimately futile. Further, Golgoth proves to know exactly where and what the minister is doing, leaving him alive as a game.
Indeed, if there is no hope then why wallow in this world of transgressors? Empire is at its most entertaining as the ministers vie against each other. It is easy to imagine that if Golgoth were killed the resulting civil war amongst his ministers would outstrip even the devastation seen in this series thus far.
Of particular interest to me in this story is the appearance of "New Angola," one of Golgoth's states. It is extremely rare to find mention of Angola in a super hero comic, much less to find a major superhuman character who is Angolan; one of Golgoth's enemies in this volume is a woman named Kianda who helped Golgoth conquer Angola but is now masterminding a movement against him. She remains a threat at large to be explored in the next volume of Empire; Uprising, which hopefully will be along before too much longer.
Empire: Uprising is marked for mature readers and features some noticeable gore. And yet, Barry Kitson shies away from lascivious material with regards to the female cast members. Although female characters get undressed in the course of the book, he doesn't delve into the expected curvy breasts & buttocks found in most comics. In fact, he seems unwilling to draw butt cracks. It's kind of nice to see this approach to female bodies, but at the same time it might also be another manifestation of North America's willingness to indulge in gore while being skittish about sexual situations.
Empire: Uprising is best enjoyed by people who have read the original Empire series. If that's you, then hurry out and get a copy!