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Comic Review: Evil Empire #1
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Evil Empire #1 cover by Jay ShawEvil Empire #1
Written by Max Bemis
Art by Ransom Getty
Color by Christ Blythe
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Cover by Jay Shaw
BOOM! Studios
Release Date: March 5, 2014
Cover Price: $3.99

As a huge fan of post-apocalyptic stories, I’m always pining for the next Walking Dead or Jericho that’ll satisfy my primal curiosities about a world where the material comforts of modern suburbia have been ripped away. Enter writer Max Bemis’ new series Evil Empire. Perhaps my expectations of fire and brimstone were misplaced; what we get is more TMZ than DMZ. And, yet, that’s not a bad thing.

Evil Empire follows the rise of a totalitarian regime in a near-future America. Reese is a rap star whose politically charged lyrics brand her as a lone, dissenting salmon swimming against the rip tide of political conformity. Just as Reese scoffs at a vacuous political commercial, the star of the ad, Sam Duggins, makes a surprise appearance backstage. The aspiring politician seeks to tap into the energy of Reese’s fanbase by befriending her and, presumably, winning her endorsement. After some hokey cardboard cheesing that’s typical of a big-name politician, Duggins intrigues Reese enough to win her reluctant attention.

Evil Empire’s direction was surprising given its cover art and description promising a tale of society’s downward spiral. This story starts at the absolute genesis of this empire—it’s American totalitarianism in its zygote stage. Evil Empire #1 ends with Duggins’ political opponent making a cliffhanger public admission. In real life, such an event would undoubtedly be a major news story for several cycles. However, for this story’s grand scope, this event seems rather small-scale. I’m curious to see how writer, Max Bemis, will escalate this unsettlingly familiar society into an “evil empire” from this point.

Max Bemis’ dialogue can be clunky at times. The character’s lines—Reese’s in particular–read like excerpts of a Bill Maher rant. This wordy, unnatural speech expresses a lot of information in a small space, but it doesn’t flow well in the comic book medium. It took me out of the story on multiple occasions as I had to decipher what I just read.

Artist Ransom Getty’s close-ups are downright gorgeous. However, when the viewpoint moves farther back, the characters can exhibit some awkward facial expressions. I was confused, at times, whether Reese was ecstatic, angry, or clenching a shart. Overall, Getty’s line work dutifully portrays this politically motivated tale. Jay Shaw’s cover art is phenomenal. The beautifully simple cover alone is what hooked me into checking out Evil Empire—to say nothing of the equally fascinating variant covers.

Evil Empire definitely has a point to make, but, so far, this story is a character study of an anti-establishment artist getting swept into the world of an aspiring politician. The story’s direction was unexpected and, frankly, I didn’t like it at first. But as I’ve let the comic simmer in my mind, I have gained an appreciation for its ambition. Evil Empire is a slow jaunt; this first issue doesn’t even seem to scratch the surface. This is one of those comics where I might wait a few months and let some issues stack up for some quality binge-time.

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