REVIEW: THE EMPTY MAN #1
Story by Cullen Bunn
Illustrations by Vanesa R. Del Rey
Published by Boom! Studios
Release Date: 06/11/2014
This week Boom! Studios releases “The Empty Man”, a new six issue miniseries from writer Cullen Bunn (The Sixth Gun, Magneto) and Vanesa R. Del Rey (Hit). The story takes place in a time when a horrific virus is disseminating throughout the world causing mass hysteria. The origin of this contagious disease is unknown with symptoms that include depression with suicidal tendencies, hallucinations, and violent rage, all contributing to the rampant panic. The pandemic has generated a rise in religious factions and in response, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has joined forces with the F.B.I. to not just seek a cure, but to stop the dangerous cults as well.
The first issue starts off five years back in Mountain Home, Arkansas with a look back at Reverend Abram Markoff who at the time was an unknown evangelist, but has advantageously risen to become a nationally syndicated televangelist, in large part to the Empty Man virus and fear. We immediately are introduced to the devastating power of this disease, as we witness a family torn apart when an infected man and his wife fall victim to the virus in a classic “OMG” moment.
Enter Special Agents Walter Langford and Monica Jensen; called over to Atlanta, Georgia to investigate this most recent Simmons case, they discover that the children of the latest victims are nowhere to be found. Upon questioning neighbors and nearby witnesses, they realize that they are being watched and end up in a foot pursuit after confronting this person. It is shortly thereafter when we come to the realization that there is perhaps more to the Empty Man virus that we thought.
The virus has caused people to commit unthinkable atrocities as our “witness” describes. These insane acts were all brought on by the twisted paranoia and hallucinations invoked by this contagion and are reminiscent of crimes that we often see on a nightly basis when watching the local and national news before bed. So what is the Empty Man really and what does it represent? Well it could symbolize a lot of things really. There is the seriousness of mental illness and our failure to provide care for those suffering from it. We also live in a time when there are more people over the age of 65 alive today than any other age group, and with it we are seeing the frightening reality of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as it takes away our parents. Or perhaps the Empty Man is just metaphoric of what our society has become, with so much illness, violence, corruption, and political divisiveness, maybe we are immune or just oblivious to it all. While corporations prosper in hard economic times while the middle and lower classes struggle day-to-day, and pharmaceutical and health care insurance companies take advantage of people’s ailments while the country and its representatives refuse to work together on a health care system, because it is unheard of in a capitalist society to not be able to profit on something as real as cancer or heart disease. The pandemic could also be the media and how it spreads fear that is at times more damaging than the virus itself. After reading the first issue what I do know is that this is a damn good comic book.
The visuals in this first issue are nothing short of spectacular as break out artist Vanesa R. Del Rey displays her remarkable gritty pulp noir style adding that needed dark element and cogency to the story. My expectations are usually pretty high when I’m reading a Cullen Bunn script, and like most of his work “The Empty Man” exceeded those expectations. Over the last few years, Bunn has transformed himself from a great horror comic writer to a masterful storyteller capable of tackling any genre and appears to be in the process of delivering yet another horror classic.
Story: 9 out of 10 Art: 9 out of 10 Overall Rating: 9 out of 10