Review - The Empty Man #1 (@boomstudios)

"And...oh many of us won't be able to survive the truth that is revealed."

There's a good chance that what inevitably does humanity in is some sort of virus. In The Empty Man #1 from BOOM! Studios, such an infection is wreaking havoc on families and friends. The issue is written by Cullen Bunn, illustrated by Jesús Hervás, colored by Niko Guardia and lettered by Ed Dukeshire.

The nation is in the grip of a terrible pandemic. The so-called Empty Man disease causes insanity and violence. Government quarantines are mandatory. One of the afflicted is Melissa Kerry, and the next step should be to quarantine her-but those who enter quarantine are never seen again. Melissa's family won't let that happen. All they have to do is care for her, keep her worsening condition a secret-and they'll do anything, trust anyone, to keep her safe.

The universe of The Empty Man isn't a new one per se and Bunn spends much of the first issue here re-establishing the Empty Man virus and how it's affected the world. Bunn is taking a new approach otherwise, focusing instead on how the virus is affecting everyday people and how various groups plan to respond to it. The issue is paced very well in this regard as Bunn bounces among three main points of view: the afflicted, the authorities and the Empty Man cult. The way Bunn seamlessly blends them all together is pretty phenomenal and is setting the series up quite nicely. If there's one minor knock against the issue it's that so much time is spent re-establishing the universe that there doesn't really seem to be one clear, uniform direction for things to move in (even though Bunn likely has a plan in place).

There's something unsettling and eerie about the approach to the artwork. Hervás illustrates the issue with thin, wispy lines that give the characters enough definition to stand out against the backgrounds; not so much so though that the world doesn't feel all-encompassing. The semi-detached style does afford Hervás the opportunity to render some of the more graphic and gory results of the virus without them coming across as too violent. The panels are very neatly arranged and organized, providing a sense of structure to the otherwise chaotic world being ravaged by the Empty Man disease. And Guardia's colors are pale and dull, enforcing the notion that the inhabitants affected by the disease are struggling on multiple levels.

The Empty Man #1 is an origin story of sorts, even if it's another chapter in an existing universe. Everyone seems to be affected by the virus in one way or another and how those in power react to the afflictions will be very telling. Bunn's got a firm grasp on the events so far and looks to make things even more uncomfortable for everyone involved. The artwork by Hervás is a great match to the story itself, offering a rather unsettling look at the slow decay of the world. The Empty Man #1 is definitely worth reading if you were a fan of the original mini-series.

The Empty Man #1 is available now.