A decade after Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s first “Empire” series, the duo finally returns with a sequel in “Empire: Uprising” #1, which first appeared on Waid’s Thrillbent digital comics website. The empire in question belongs to Golgoth, the despotic supervillain who succeeded in world domination. This issue picks up one year after the last series, leading off with a hint of a new story development to come before reminding past readers and showing new ones the all-encompassing nature of Golgoth’s dominance, which immediately hooks audiences just like the first series did.
The new comic is perfectly welcoming to new readers, who ironically might get a bigger bang out of it if they’re unfamiliar with the character of Golgoth. Through the device of a simple and seemingly innocent classroom lesson on current events and recent history, Waid concisely brings readers up-to-date with a brief background. Kitson, meanwhile, juxtaposes a schoolteacher’s whitewashed, inoffensive account over flashbacks to Golgoth’s actual horrific acts, providing a quick, shocking and effective reintroduction to his sadistic and dominating nature. Losing none of the impact a decade later, Waid and Kitson demonstrate the exact same kind of synergy and emotional storytelling that made the first series worthy of its accolades.
The tension doesn’t end with the main character’s first reappearance, though; when a Golgoth-imposed mandatory moment of silence is observed, Kitson puts palpable fear on the faces of so many characters. While the state of terror isn’t openly shown, it’s clearly evident on the characters’ expressions and behaviors as silently conveyed by Kitson. It’s a demonstration that’s successful because, in that moment, readers are put in the same situation as these terrified walk-on characters; Golgoth is nowhere to be seen during these scenes, but his presence is most definitely felt.
With the pervasive fear of this tyrannical ruler established, Waid moves to the next logical step: a new conflict instigated by a group of rebels who are staging an assassination attempt. There’s an almost dark, red-shirt kind of comedic aspect to their introduction, with their fates practically foretold merely by the placement of this sequence in the story. This group also employs a somewhat disturbing psychological tactic that doubles down on their audacity; any readers who initially thought that some of these insurgents would make it beyond the next few pages will quickly rethink that notion. Ultimately, their failure makes for yet another disturbing image upon its conclusion.
Waid’s story is so engaging that, when the issue comes to an end a few pages later, it seems as though it had just begun. The final pages reintroduce Golgoth’s ministers and also introduce a grain of uncertainty among their ranks regarding the mental state of their leader, which adds another conflict to Waid’s already compelling story. Kitson’s art helps speed the pace along, as well; his clean style and fluid layouts keep the story moving, while the only aspect that really slows the pace down is stopping long enough to admire the artwork’s detail. Chris Sotomayor’s colors are beautiful as well, realistically embellishing the space between Kitson’s lines.
“Empire: Uprising” #1 is the welcome and triumphant return of a long-missed series that, so far, is every bit the achievement that its predecessor was.