Review: The Empty Man #6

Despite what the issue numbering suggests, this doesn’t feel like an ending. That’s not to say that a couple of outstanding story beats haven’t been completed, with a few old and new ones left dangling to reel the reader in again, but I think this is where I get off The Empty Man ... which is totally what she said. I’ve become less enchanted with this title since its strong beginning; more committed to seeing out the miniseries here than loyalty to the story. Like I’ve said ad nausea over the past six reviews of this book, I love the idea of a sentient virus; it’s probably the only element that has really kept me aboard, but everything else in the story feels trodden and uninteresting by this point, at least with the direction the creators are seemingly going with it.

One of the things wrapped-up in this issue of The Empty Man is the idea of its origin. We know what it is now, and it’s exactly what you’d expect, mostly because it was all-but-explained last issue. Where it’s going next seems Lovecraftian in nature - more so than I expected, even given the monsters that have already appeared - and I’m not so sure I want to read something like that.

Empty_Man_006_coverAOn the plus side, Bunn does do some further world-tinkering this issue with snippets of the ongoing spread of The Empty Man “virus,” as well as the world governments’ ratcheted-up reaction to it. I wish we saw more of that. The best parts of this series, narratively speaking, have been the individualized case studies of each victim. Bunn’s infected world (which sounds like a really fucked up ride at Disneyland) is dead interesting, and to get closer views of it, not necessarily through the eyes of a crime procedural, would be excellent.

Then again, that genre just isn’t my favorite storytelling vehicle, so maybe it’s just me. Still, the ramifications we get glimpses of here in the end make me want more of that sweet, sweet insanity and bedlam. Provided there is one, if the second series does that, I may be back on board. Unfortunately, given the otherworldly connotations at the finale, I’m disinclined to think it will.

Cullen Bunn also does his level best dialogue here, which I think is another strength of the series; but it just doesn’t feel like it’s evolving the story in any particular way, apart from the more holistic views of the world I mentioned above. The same is true of Del Rey’s art. Just like the story itself, her style has become stagnant, if not unravelling with each issue.

Her work here still reminds me of a stretched-out Kindt, but lacking much of his expressiveness. Also not doing it any favors is the heavy use of shadow, and I understand that it’s meant to have a sort of pseudo-noir feel, but it weighs down Del Rey’s already burdened and shaky style, progressively looking more like a hastily-drawn chalk menu board. It’s not “bad,” and some closer-up scenes are even stirring, but I feel like she’s stopped trying.

If you’ve been keeping up with The Empty Man, you should at very least get to this point, not because it necessarily finishes everything you want, but just to see if it’ll have something for you if and when it continues. As for me, I think I’ll sit the next round of infection out.

Score: 2/5

Writer: Cullen Bunn Artist: Vanesa R. Del Rey Colorist: Michael Garland Publisher: BOOM! Studios Price: $3.99 Release Date: 12/10/14 Format: Mini-Series (of 6); Print/Digital