Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Vanesa R. Del Rey
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Through its first two issues, The Empty Man has been one of my favorite new comics. Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey have crafted a tightly-wound, believable world full of horror and mystery, primarily in the form of the enigmatic, titular empty man virus. Much like “Where are we?” was the central question of Lost, “What is it?” carries through each issue of The Empty Man, as two FBI agents (think Mulder and Scully) investigate the most recent empty man outbreak. Is it a biological virus? A curse from God? An alien invasion? All possibilities seem open. Unlike Lost, though, The Empty Man has been extremely forthcoming with potential answers, accelerating the pace of mystery with large developments in each of its three issues. “The Empty Man #3” closes with yet another potential answer, and it has me questioning the pace of this series that I’ve wholeheartedly endorsed.
My primary concern is this: Once we find out what exactly the empty man virus is, are we still interested in this series? Part of the thrill of issue #1 was the mysterious outbreak and the violent repercussions among the infected. “Empty Man #1” navigated elements of “The Walking Dead #1″ or Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain in a setting most reminiscent of The X-Files. Throw in the entirely unique and refreshingly authentic style of Vanesa R. Del Rey, and you have yourself a comic book worth getting excited about. Issue #2 broadened the revelations surrounding The Empty Man in a way that made it clear this series wouldn’t be all suspense, no answers (I’m looking at you Lost). At the end of the day, I know this is a good thing. The last thing I want as a reader is 20 issues of a seemingly directionless series with no plan in sight. Nonetheless, the potential empty man virus explanations unveiled in issues #2 and #3 are on a scale that suggests that they aren’t just red herrings. And in a way, I’m enjoying this series so much that I almost don’t want to feel so close so soon.
Again, these are broader questions that stem from a lack of patience. There’s nothing through three issues that should suggest Bunn and Del Rey don’t have a comprehensive plan and plenty of twists up their sleeve before all is said and done. It’s also worth acknowledging that this is a new series, trying to establish new readership, and it makes perfect sense to utilize the supernatural capabilities of comic book storytelling to advance the story. Through our second and third issues of The Empty Man, this means monstrous vermin at the edges of the story.
“The Empty Man #3” carries on with the FBI investigation, with our True Detective season two team following up on leads from the empty man cult worshiper who was killed in their interrogation room. The team now believes that the empty man virus is targeting members of the worship cult, as they also continue tracking down the whereabouts of the son and daughter of the empty man victims from “The Empty Man #1.” As all of this happens, one of our agents begins questioning her own sanity, seeing visions of monstrous creatures and hearing what may well be the voice of the empty man. She puts on a brave face, but calls to set up a covert analysis, hopefully before it’s too late.
Additionally, Bunn continues the mystery of the preacher, so far opening each of our three issues on this preacher whose influence was grown from a condemned farmhouse to a stadium full of the rabid faithful. His connection to the empty man virus is still unclear, but this particular mystery remains one of the most tantalizing elements of The Empty Man. A single issue dedicated solely to this character would be extremely satisfying.
Bunn and Del Rey are an excellent team and continue to put out my favorite horror comic of the year. The revelations keep increasing in scope, almost to a Doctor Who level, which will make for a continually interesting series as it progresses. BOOM! Studios has a winner on its hands here, and I highly recommend you give this series a look.
“The Empty Man #3” earns 7.5 / 10