REVIEW: Empyre: X-Men #2: She Talks to Himbo Angels

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The Cotati have invaded Genosha! And there they find…zombies! And…old ladies? The X-Men are in for one of their strangest fights yet, and we’re here to talk about it!

Empyre: X-Men #2

VC’s Clayton Cowles (letterer), Gerry Dugan (writer), Tom Muller (design), Ben Percy (writer), Lucas Werneck (artist) Leah Williams (writer), Nolan Woodard (colorist)
Marvel Comics
August 5, 2020

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We’re back for round two of Empyre: X-Men! This miniseries is essentially a round robin, with different Dawn of X creators working on an issue and then passing the ongoing story onto another team. For Empyre: X-Men #2, we have Gerry Dugan, Ben Percy, and Leah Williams splitting writing duties and Lucas Werneck on art. What did you think of this issue?

Kayleigh Hearn: I was pleasantly surprised by Empyre: X-Men #1, which seemed like a challenge to the idea that big superhero event tie-ins are usually disposable fluff. Empyre: X-Men #2 is still fun, but more of a slog this time around, if only because the Cotati (the alien invaders who are the driving force behind the event) are almost irrelevant here amidst the mutants, mutant zombies (a whole ‘nother thing), and Hordeculture. And with the main X-Men series also tying into Empyre, it definitely feels like the creators are just fucking around here, and while the issue is frequently funny, the “why” of it all is getting lost.

Nola Pfau: I didn’t love the first issue; it had great character beats, but I felt like the overall plot was lacking. Issue #2 really took that in unexpected directions though! I really enjoyed the way the story structure shoved the zombie threat almost to the background, like it was just a minor annoyance in the face of all the other nonsense the X-Men were having to deal with. I was pleased that what I expected to be Yet Another Zombie Story was in fact something entirely different.

Cori McCreery: I think I liked the first issue a bit more, if only because I think Tini Howard and Jonathon Hickman gelled a little better. I think Duggan and Williams both worked really well, but Percy is enough of a style change right in the middle that it just kind of broke the flow for me. That said, Williams’ end of the issue shenanigans were fantastic. 

empyre x-men #2Hordeculture’s back, and their secret weapon is…Sex Pollen! Hey, I’ve read this fic! How do we feel about Angel getting a face full of pheromones? 

Kayleigh: Yeah, I’ve read this fic. As sympathetic as I am for poor, dopey Angel, with the pheromone spray I think we’ve veered a little too far into Toon Town. Angel visualizing Hordeculture as a bunch of sparkly young babes…well, I was going to say that’s a very old joke, pun unintended, because the punchline is that, gasp, they’re actually really old and ugly! And there’s a lot of sexist and ageist gunk baked into that joke, when the most interesting thing about Hordeculture is that they’re a rare sighting of women over 60 in a genre that excludes them entirely save for the occasional doddering widowed aunt.

Nola: I don’t like Hordeculture at all, because I feel like a lot of their entire existence is ageist gunk, to use your words, Kayleigh. That said, the dynamics aside, I love a Warren who is always about three minutes from being a damsel in distress, and I felt like this issue gave me that while also keeping him relatively functional and useful over the arc of the issue. That was a tricky balancing act, I think.

Cori: Same thoughts as both of you. It feels like it’s a setup for a very bad joke. Hordeculture are evil little shits, but find things they can control to make fun of, not their age and appearance. I did appreciate that they decided that they need a version that works on demon ladies though. 

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The X-Men all get some moments to shine here, but who’s your MVP of the issue? Himbo Angel? Magik? Lil Pollen Black Tom? Or my new favorite character, Explodey Boy?

Kayleigh: Explodey Boy is my new son and I love him. (I will not be taking any questions at this time.) Lil Pollen Black Tom is a great visual gag–I love that the Dawn of X books are being extremely playful and creative with Black Tom’s nature-based powers, and really pushing on the idea that he can do some funny, weird shit with them. Remember when Black Tom was just a guy with a shillelagh? 

Nola: It’s gotta be Black Tom. He was allowed to shine so much here, providing communications, countermeasures, transportation, he was EVERYWHERE. It definitely seemed like a significant power upgrade for him, too, and I’m pretty for that.

Cori: Lil Tom! Not just Black Tom, but his little shoulder sitting bastard son. Calling Warren a dirty himbo was a chef kiss moment for me. 

Attention all psychics! Empyre: X-Men #2 ends with a dramatic splash page of some familiar (and formerly dead!) psychics walking through the gate. Are you looking forward to a psychic showdown next issue?

Kayleigh: Mr. Sinister’s psychic? Has he been psychic this whole time? Am I outing myself a complete fraud for admitting I didn’t know this?

Nola: I remember that his whole basis for being admitted to Krakoa was that he engineered a version of himself that was a mutant, but did they ever dive into what his powers were when they revealed that in HoXPoX? It could be they were just saving that. However, I went into it elsewhere but the real meat for me was the Shadow King showing up here on this page. I feel like that’s gonna be…big, down the line. 

Cori: It’s interesting, for sure. Both Shadow King and Lady Mastermind were fairly unexpected sights for me. Looking forward to seeing Quire die again, because he has to, right?

WILL Quentin Quire die again? (He definitely has to, right?) Check back next week as we tackle Empyre: X-Men #3!

Kayleigh Hearn

Kayleigh Hearn

Still waiting for her Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters acceptance letter. Bylines also at Deadshirt, Ms-En-Scene, The MNT, PanelxPanel, and Talk Film Society.