The fourth week of Marvel’s Empyre event and it seems the pressure of leading two empires into war is finally getting to Hulkling. Spoilers for Empyre issues 1-3 and minor spoilers for the first few pages of Empyre #4 ahead.
Upon waking from his rest, Hulkling has ordered the use of the Pyre, a weapon that is able to destroy the Sun. This catches Human Torch and Captain Marvel completely off guard, with the two attempting to stop him before being teleported down to Earth by Mur-g’nn. The two find themselves in the apartment of Hulkling’s long-time lover Wiccan and ask him for help. It is about time that Wiccan appeared in the main comic. His relationship with Hulkling is one of the reasons the two characters are so popular. I find it interesting that Mur-g’nn sent Captain Marvel and Human Torch to him. Does she have doubts about Hulkling as well?
The Cotati are mounting an invasion of Wakanda to control their vibranium rich soil so they can plant a garden that will allow them to stretch their presence across the galaxy. Black Panther is fighting with his people on the front line, while Invisible Woman, the Thing, Mantis and She Hulk confront Quoi, the leader of the Cotati.
After the build-up from Empyre #3 with Quoi stating that Black Panther is their greatest threat, we finally get to see what he meant. Most of the comic is told from T’Challa’s point of view, with him criticizing the decisions of Hulkling, Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic. Sadly, he is unable to do anything about it due to the enemies at Wakanda’s door. Al Ewing dives into the mind of the King of Wakanda and how he is different from Hulkling and Quoi, being unwilling to sacrifice the soil of Wakanda to stop the Cotati. Ewing and story co-writer Dan Slott definitely have a good handle on what makes Black Panther tick.
Valerio Schiti brings out the emotional strife of the characters through his art. The complete shock on Human Torch and Captain Marvel’s faces truly sells how different this Hulkling is from the one present in previous issues. The jaw-dropping panels with Black Panther fighting the Cotati nearly single-handedly shows just how capable he is as both a leader and a fighter. The horrifying reveal at the end would not work without the terrifying imagery. The color contrast thanks to colorist Marte Gracia only adds to the grotesqueness.
Empyre #4 sees our heroes hit their lowest point. Hulkling is not himself. The Avengers are scattered across the Earth, each dealing with their own problems. Wakanda is on its last leg, only barely holding off the Cotati’s forces. All of this, along with an Earth-shattering reveal near the end and Wiccan’s powerful words create my favorite issue of the event so far.