I’ll keep this one kinda short, primarily because I don’t have much good to say. :[
Any Empire is basically a very weird, very dark story centered around a group of ill-adjusted juvenile boys doing mean, disturbing things. It’s depressing, and it’s uncomfortably real – which may be why I didn’t enjoy it that much. I kept thinking, “these are the kids who grow up to shoot a bunch of innocent people”. Not exactly a “fun” read, I guess…
That unsettling association wasn’t even the main turn-off for me, however. (Hell, I consistently give Scalped rave reviews, and that shit is downright masochistic.) No, my main problem with Any Empire was that I never really knew what the hell was going on! The story is constantly flashing back and forth between past, present, and fantasy, without ever clearly indicating which realm you’re currently in, or that you had even transported. It’s up to the reader to figure all that out, and figure out how the current events relate to the rest of the story.
Further obscuring the narrative is a dearth of expository text, or even dialogue between the characters. The whole thing actually kinda reminds me of poetry, in that there is probably a very profound message there, if you’re willing to ponder and parse the material and “crack the mystery”. But personally, that’s just not what I’m looking for in a comic book. Tell me a good, exciting, story straight-up, illustrate it with cool pictures, and I’m happy.
Which brings us to the pictures. I’m not a fan of Nate Powell‘s art on Any Empire. It’s completely ink pen, with no coloring or shading other than cross-hatching, which in large doses starts to feel tense and messy and eye-straining. The individual panels can also be awkwardly arranged and ill-defined, which contributes to the overall feeling of confusion.
Sorry, Nate Powell. Based on your biography in the back of the book, you seem like a nice guy. And I’ll admit, a certain type of reader might enjoy Any Empire. But I just didn’t. I’m giving it a 3 out of 10, for too much “eh?”.