We're all aware of the dystopian future cliché, the totalitarian government and oppressed masses. Evil Empire is the story of what leads us there, how the world we live in erodes and leaves behind the one we're afraid to think about. It's an intriguing concept but having read the first issue, you find yourself asking less "How do we become a dystopian society?" and more just "Wait, what...?"
The story begins to be confusing rather quickly by focusing on the bizarre, improbable and shoe-horned-in romance between an underground rock star and the Democratic Presidential candidate. It's an understandably awkward dynamic that doesn't offer any insight into its apparent success. The only explanation is the fact that just going with it might somehow lessen how incredibly uncomfortable cornering a stranger backstage or barging in on their televised interview can be. The story continues to twist in this direction as the two make their first date the wake for the incumbent Presidential candidate's murdered wife. If awkwardness and uncertainty is a blade, this is one that gets shoved between your ribs and, without spoilers, twists hard at the end.
If this book was called A Twist of Love all these things would be acceptable. But anyone who knows what the book is supposed to be about is going to be sorely disappointed at the end to see the first issue fails to point the story in that direction. In fact, it's unclear whether or not the dystopian future has already begun because its starts out with strange uniformed men shooting two innocent people in the streets and never mentions it again. The story is more a commentary on shock-value in pop-culture than any sort of socio-political fiction.
The best attributes, ones which make this issue worth owning regardless of where the story may go in the future issues, are the various covers. Jay Shaw's vintage and simplistic "Cover A" is not only striking with its line of rising fists, it ignites a sense of outrage and solidarity. The faceless, up-turned arms is the anonymous revolution we always imagine rebelling against abusive governments and tells Evil Empire's story far better than anything within. Robbi Rodriguez's variant "Cover B" is a colorful and engaging alternative, effectively introducing both the main characters as well as the concept of the story with the upside-down cityscape in opposition to the 3-D colored gestapo suspiciously standing behind our youthful politician. The black versus red lining in the two main characters suggests opposing motivations and goals for the two lovebirds and helps this cover to convey far more in a single page than we were offered after.