Chimera’s Champion Comics: Empress Vol. 1

Marvel joins forces with Millarworld! Their ‘Icons’ subsidiary was an open invitation for them to delve into more ‘mature’ works before they were willing to plaster ‘explicit’ labels on to their everyday hero books again, a move that was very common in the early 2000s but only just now resurging fully in the last year. Empress has been their limelight title and now it’s finally been collected into its first volume, seven issues of epic science-fiction space travel adventure and alien intrigue.
So what to say about this series without underselling it?
The story as a whole is simple and elegant, a nice change from the typically complicated plots and stingers from Mark Millar, and this is paired with an equally simplified rendering by Stuart Immonen, one of my absolute favorites. Again, to say these elements are simple is NOT to insult or demean this comic. Rather, it feels very much like Saga, where it says what it needs to and moves on to more important matters, which is giving the reader a fun experience with a group of eccentric and fascinating characters and environments.
The cast in this comic are given a great treatment, well-rounded with emotional sensitivity just as easily brought on as a trained beating. Their goal is escape and each member of the family and crew feel rather differently about that goal, reflected especially in the eyes of the children who are caught between losing their father, but also that he happens to be a deranged overlord akin to Thanos.
The twists of the plot are necessary reveals with weight behind the drive for each character instead of the usual contrived and nonsensical shocker that superhero comics are particularly guilty of lately. It’s really nice to see a comic that sets up such a grand scale of story, taking place in the great expanse of outer space, and yet they humble it with problems that are timeless and common, if not unspoken.
I’m way too excited for the next installment of this series, whenever it’s meant to come out, but in the meantime, I have no qualms in rereading this awesome tale. Did I mention there’s dinosaur steeds? Sorry, I should have sooner.
TL;DR: There are dinosaur steeds.

Welcome Home, Spider-Man: A Spider-Man Homecoming Review

I counted down over 500 days to the release of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. So long, in fact, that my countdown increased when they pushed the release from November 2001 to May 2002. And I’ll never forget the pure, unbridled joy I felt seeing that movie for the first time. 15 years and dozens of superhero movies since then, and Spider-Man Homecoming managed to capture that magic for me again.

Find Your Place In The Universe

What makes Spider-Man Homecoming so magical? The obvious answer is the one Sony and Marvel put right in front of you: this is IN the Marvel movie universe. And in that regard this movie is awesome. Seeing Spider-Man team-up with Iron Man is amazing, pun intended, plus you get to see the Marvel Universe from the ground floor. What do alien invasions and the age of heroes mean to blue-collar, street level guys like Adrian Toomes or worried family members like Aunt May? Seeing all of this spun before your eyes is impressive. Sony executes this not only through big moves but by literally dozens of tiny easter eggs.

Come On, Peter

But that’s not all that makes this film so terrific. Rather, it’s the portrayal of Spider-Man in a way you’ve never seen before: he’s truly a screw-up, trying his best, and constantly out of his element. It’s what makes Spider-Man so relatable, and entry point into the Marvel Universe that’s exciting but simultaneously relatable. “Find your place in the universe” was the tagline and it’s really true. Where would we fit in to such a world of gods and monsters? As hapless victims, running screaming from Ultron? Would we be mighty gods like Thor? Or, like our friendly-neighborhood wall crawler, would we be doing our best to make a difference and embrace our changing world with excitement? Spider-Man Homecoming explores the MCU from the ground level.

Does Whatever A Spider Can

I’d be remiss if my review didn’t address the action and the effects. This is the sixth Spider-Man film, so you’d think you’ve seen it all. And yet Spider-Man has a fresh energy, incredible power with less refinement than either McGuire or Garfield, providing stunts and battles that still wow and thrill. His new suit, complete with all the bells and whistles you’d expect in threads made by Tony Stark, brings to life such classics as the spider-tracers and web gliders, while also introducing new elements like the AI Karen or over 500 different web combinations.

I’m Batman…I Mean, Vulture

The many battles with the Vulture are brutal. He’s vicious and frightening, with a costume cleverly designed for function (like his “claws” that are really like forklifts designed for gripping heavy cargo during heists) while still resembling his namesake (like the fur-lined collar of the bomber jacket). And on that score, Michael Keaton portrays Adrian Toomes as far and away one of the most layered, compelling villains in the MCU. One dimensional villains with no sympathetic qualities or believable motivations plague these movies (I’m looking at you, Ronan) and yet here we have a villain who you see struggling economically, and whose vicious temper really only comes out in defense of his beloved family, along with a code of conduct that gives you a respect for him as well.

More Than Moral Support

Speaking of Keaton, he’s first among an excellent and diverse supporting cast. Peter’s high school friends represent many races and genders, and while our main character is still a straight white male, it’s definitely encouraging to see just how well-rounded his world is. Marissa Tomei shines as Aunt May (and the movie has a lot of fun with how attractive old “eat your wheat cakes” has gotten), along with excellent performances from Zendaya and NAME OF LIZ ALLEN, and a small but memorable part of Donald Glover as NAME, who in the comics is better known as the Prowler and the uncle of the Miles Morales’ Spider-Man.

Spider-Man Homecoming Review by Chimeras Comics

Spidey Hits Home

Last, it’s worth noting how fun this movie is. From Captain America’s cameos, to Spider-Man’s lovable attempts to be helpful, to quirky supporting characters like Flash Thompson or the sandwich shop owner, Spider-Man Homecoming had me grinning ear to ear for the first forty-five minutes straight.

For me, the Spider-Man movies are deeply nostalgic and deeply personal. The message of power and responsibility could be said to be the center of any superhero story. These movies remind me of my father, who hooked me on Spidey through cartoons when I was a child and watched patiently as I got older but never grew out of it. And now they’re something I get to share with my brother, who as a 16 year old could easily be Spider-Man (actually quite literally).

Homecoming hits home because it gives us the fledgling teenage superhero, a hero you root for not because he’s unstoppable but because he isn’t. Because he makes mistakes. Because he’s the ultimate underdog. And because he keeps bouncing back.

When he’s not selling comics, Carmelo Chimera is practicing law and working on the release of his upcoming graphic novel, Magnificent.