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Empire #1

Posted: Sunday, August 10, 2003
By: Paul Brian McCoy



"As Ye Sow..."

Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Barry Kitson(p), James Pascoe(i)

Publisher: DC

Plot:
Lord Golgoth has conquered the world and is now settling in to actually running things. Jeppe Rasmussen is the new ambassador from Greenland, being sent to meet with Golgoth. Meanwhile, Princess Delfi, while quiet, has some ideas of her own about growing up. Ah, single-parenting's even a bitch if you rule the planet.

Comments:
Well, this settles it. Mark Waid is the most middle-of-the-road writer working today. He's not bad. Don't get me wrong. He's just not that good, either. What he is, is comfortable. He knows this game inside and out. He usually knows what the fans want to read, and delivers it without a lot of fuss. His writing is the comic book equivalent of "must-see tv". There's not a lot of thinking needed; everything will be laid out for you in very clear and patient steps; nothing will surprise you and make you feel like you're dumber than the creators; in fact, nothing will challenge you to think beyond your pre-conceived notions about anything. Again, I'm not saying that he's bad. He has a lot of good ideas, as we see with Empire, but nothing really seems to come from them. Except comfort. As has been said elsewhere, Waid's writing should be the standard that the industry is held to. He can be trusted to provide an entertaining story without too many missteps. But damned if it isn't boring. Maybe I've been reading comics for too long.

The problem with this series, and everything else I've read by Waid (yes, even Kingdom Come) is that no matter how good the initial idea is, there's hardly a single thing to come out of the work that the reader doesn't expect. It's like the ultimate fan fiction. Although, to be honest, fan fiction can have a lot more innovation in it than Waid puts on the page. His work just doesn't appeal to me. I like to be surprised. I like ideas that I wouldn't have come up with on my own. I like to be introduced to concepts that make me think and question. I like to be challenged. Waid is not challenging. It's that simple. Giving the FF the moniker "imaginauts" is not innovation. He is the king of the good initial idea. I'll give him that. But his follow through is too comfortable to create anything outside the box.

For example, issue one of Empire. Look at the cover. It is a lovely cover. But every single plot point is there on the cover. You really don't have to read the insides, unless you want to know what people's names are. I know that Waid is probably not in control of every aspect of the publishing process. Maybe he had no part in the design of the cover. I don't know. So let's look inside. No one does a damn thing that you don't know they're going to do. Even Golgoth's daughter is a case study in simple character design. She's so na´ve and innocent that she doesn't know that her heavily armored father is the evil super power that has conquered the world. Let's go ahead and give Waid that little affectation, even though it is absurd unless Delfi is mentally handicapped. She's so innocently introduced you just know that to give her "depth" and make her "interesting" she has to be sleeping with a guard. She can't be that innocent. No. Of course, this will get the guard in trouble later. Reading this is like watching someone play dominos. And if you don't know what's going to happen to the ambassador of Greenland, then I just don't know what to say to you.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot the art. It's very good. It carries the show. Just like most of the stuff Waid works on. If Kitson's design work and all-around professionalism weren't top notch, then this would be just another run-of-the-mill story. It still doesn't save it for me, but lots of people seem to love this thing. But they love Waid's FF too, and I don't agree with that either. Oh well. You know what you like.

Final Word:
Sit back and unplug your brain. The bad guy's won and everything you expect to happen does. You don't need to read this story to already know this story. Waid and Kitson have bills to pay, too, though, so I won't just dismiss this book. But please don't say that this is something brilliant. Because it's not. It's a good idea but that's it. And it looks nice.



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