GUARDING THE GALAXY: EXPLORING THE MARVEL COSMIC UNIVERSE
Part Seventeen: Wars, of Kings
Beginning with Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest, and continuing into Nova and the Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel revitalized their cosmic characters for a new era. Now, there would be a War of Kings.
First let’s get to know some of the major players a little bit better.
The Inhumans — created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Inhumans first appeared in Fantastic Four #45. They came about from genetic experiments conducted on humans by the Kree, millions of years ago. The experiments were abandoned when the test subjects began to develop extraordinary abilities. The test subjects went on to form their own society, developing enhanced technology, and experimenting with the mutagenic Terrigen Mists, which granted the members of their society super-human powers.
The Inhumans are led by their king, Black Bolt (powers capable of mass destruction, triggered with merely a whisper), and the royal family, consisting of Medusa (super strong psychokinetic hair), Karnak (deadly martial artist with the keen ability to determine the weakness in anything), Gorgon (super strong, with the ability to generate intense shockwaves with his bull-like legs), Triton (aquatic powers), Crystal (ability to manipulate the four elements), Maximus the Mad (genius-level intellect and telepathy), and Lockjaw (giant teleporting dog).
Vulcan — created by Ed Brubaker and Trevor Hairsine, Vulcan first appeared in X-Men: Deadly Genesis #1. Vulcan is an Omega-level mutant, with the ability to manipulate vast amounts of energy. He is also the long-rumored third Summers brother, Gabriel, younger brother of Cyclops and Havok. Born artificially on the Shi’ar homeworld after his mother was killed, he eventually came into contact with Professor X on Earth. After nearly being killed on a mission for Professor X (which the Professor subsequently erased from everyone’s minds), Vulcan was revived by the mutant energies released during M-Day (House of M). He has a brief conflict with the X-Men, before fleeing the planet. Vulcan commandeers a Shi’ar warship, becomes a part of the Shi’ar royal family by marrying Deathbird, and declares himself Emperor of the Shi’ar. His first act is to kill his father Corsair. A civil war rages between Vulcan’s forces and the Empress Lilandra. Havok leads a new team of Starjammers (including Marvel Girl and Polaris) against his brother, but is ultimately captured and imprisoned by Vulcan. Marvel Girl and Lilandra flee while Vulcan’s power and influence continue to grow.
Empress Lilandra Neramani — created by Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, Lilandra first appeared in Uncanny X-Men #97. Lilandra is the Empress of the Shi’ar Empire, and a love interest of Professor Xavier. Along with her Imperial Guard, Lilandra has played a key role in several events throughout the X-Men’s history.
With the formalities out of the way, let’s get started.
Secret Invasion: Inhumans #1-4. Writer: Joe Pokaski; Penciler: Tom Raney; Inker: Scott Hanna; Editor: Bill Rosemann
With Black Bolt having been abducted and replaced by the Skrulls as part of their secret invasion of Earth, Medusa seeks to infiltrate the Skrulls and rescue her husband. To do this, she allies herself and the Inhumans, with Ronan and the Kree. To guarantee the continuation of their alliance beyond the rescue of Black Bolt, Medusa offers Crystal to Ronan as his bride. Black Bolt is rescued and returns to rule his people alongside his brother Maximus.
My brain thoughts: This ended up being a whole lot better than I would have anticipated, as I never was that big of an Inhumans fan. The pencils by Raney were excellent, especially the way he depicted Crystal (who might be pushing to join Colleen and Black Cat in my prestigious “favorite ladies of Marvel” harem of awesome).
Secret Invasion: War of Kings. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Pencils: Paul Pelletier and Bong Dazo; Inkers: Rick Magyar and Joe Pimentel; Editor: Bill Rosemann
Black Bolt launches an all-out attack against the Skrulls, slaughtering many. In the assault, three Shi’ar warships are destroyed. The Inhumans travel to Hala to take command of the Kree, which Ronan willingly cedes to Black Bolt. When Vulcan hears of the destroyed warships, he considers it an act of war.
My brain thoughts: The Kree are just getting pummeled in this modern era of cosmic comics. It’s one thing after another for them. They’re getting beat like Craig Ehlo playing defense on Michael Jordan. It’s like watching a Tobey Maguire Spider-Man movie. Poor Kree. Poor Craig Ehlo.
X-Men: Kingbreaker #1-4. Writer: Chris Yost; Pencilers: Dustin Weaver and Paco Diaz; Inkers: Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba, and Vicente Cifuentes; Editor: Nick Lowe
Vulcan has overseen an aggressive expansion of the Shi’ar empire, invading and conquering entire planets, and murdering a diplomatic envoy sent by the recently reformed Galactic Council. Havok breaks free from his brother’s prison, and together with Polaris and the other Starjammers, find themselves locked in combat with Vulcan’s new Shi’ar Imperial Guard, comprised of dangerous criminals and murderers. Lilandra deals a fatal blow to her sister Deathbird, but forces them all to retreat before Havok can finish his brother for good. Later, Vulcan decides to continue the Shi’ar expansion, while watching over the body of the gravely wounded Deathbird, kept alive by Shi-ar science. Havok and the Starjammers regroup, with Lilandra suggesting they ally themselves with the Kree.
My brain thoughts: The majority of the pencils on this series were done by Dustin Weaver, who would go on to greater fame as the penciler on Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Reading this mini-series was kind of like dipping my fingers in boiling milk. I don’t know why I’m doing it, it doesn’t really feel good, and yet I can’t stop myself.
But I love this cover.
War of Kings: Darkhawk #1-2. Writers: C.B. Cebulski, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Artists: Harvey Tolibao, Bong Dazo, Joe Pimentel, and Paolo Pantalena; Editor: Bill Rosemann
Chris Powell struggles to control his Darkhawk powers and growing rage. After almost injuring someone while working for Project Pegasus, Chris looks for support from his longtime girlfriend Mickey. They come home after a date to find a being clad in armor just like his having crash-landed in his mom’s back yard. Before he can determine what happened, they are attacked by a hunter drone. The other being, Talon, tells him that he belongs to the Fraternity of Raptors, an ancient force charged with safeguarding the advancement of galactic culture. With his mom having been injured in the attack, he realizes that his loved ones will always be in danger with him around. To keep his family safe, Chris decides to join Talon on his mission.
My brain thoughts: These issues both contained back-ups reprinting the first two issues of Darkhawk’s original series from the ‘90s. I only flipped through, didn’t read them, but I still wonder how Darkhawk was ever a popular comic. The answer is, simply, that the ‘90s was a great time for NBA basketball, but horribly dreadful for the majority of comic books (and for Craig Ehlo). It nearly ruined the medium in almost every conceivable facet. I place the majority of the blame for this squarely on Darkhawk (and on Craig Ehlo).
War of Kings #1. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Paul Pelletier; Inker: Rich Magyar; Editor: Bill Rosemann
The Starjammers travel to Hala for the wedding of Crystal and Ronan. Vulcan and Gladiator prepare the new Imperial Guard for an invasion of Hala. As the wedding is set to begin, the Shi’ar attack.
The Inhumans fight back as well as they can, but were taken by surprise. Many Kree are killed in the attack. Lilandra is taken by the Shi’ar, and they withdraw back to their orbiting warships, leaving behind a bloody Medusa to swear vengeance on them all.
My brain thoughts: If Craig Ehlo and Tobey Maguire had a child together, it would repeatedly lose to Jordan in basketball. (Yes, it would. Even if that child had spider-powers. -Duy)
Guardians of the Galaxy #13. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Brad Walker; Inker: Victor Olazaba; Editor: Bill Rosemann
The Guardians are enjoying a bar brawl. Mantis is worried about Phyla’s new name and role as Martyr.
Adam Warlock arrives to break up the brawl. Later, Starlord and Adam meet and agree to put aside their differences for the sake of the greater goals of the team. Adam has come with the news of Black Bolt and Vulcan’s impending war. Starlord and Rocket Raccoon convene to split the team up into two groups, with Starlord leading one team to talk to Black Bolt, while Adam leads the other to meet with Vulcan.
Starlord pleads with Black Bolt to cease hostilities, since a war would likely tear the fragile universe apart, but receives a resounding “no” in response.
Adam and his team stopped to repair a fissure on their war to the Shi’ar battlegroup. The ships are teleport shielded and only Adam arrives inside, where he is immediately attacked by Vulcan. The rest of Adam’s squad is reeled in out of space by Havok and the Starjammers, who had covertly commandeered one of the Shi’ar’s ships. Rocket and his team join Havok on his mission to rescue Lilandra, and restore her to the throne.
My brain thoughts: The Guardians make everything better. Just like Doop. They’re the Parmesan cheese of comic books. The only thing that could make this series better is if every issue came with bacon. (No, not Kevin Bacon, you weirdos. Thought I did watch Tremors the other day, and that is still a glorious movie.)
Nova #23-27. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Artist: Andrea Divito, Kevin Sharpe; Inkers: Jeffrey Huet and Nelson Pereira; Editor: Bill Rosemann
Richard Rider must overcome a Worldmind that has been secretly corrupted by Ego, and has stripped him of his Nova powers, while also jumpstarting the reformation of the Nova Corps. When the majority of the new recruits are slaughtered by the Shi’ar Imperial Guard, even after surrendering, Richard uses the Quantum Bands given to him by Wendell (fresh from his return in Guardians of the Galaxy) to reacquire the full power of the Nova force, save Worldmind, and then avenge the fallen recruits.
My brain thoughts: A tie-in by only the most superficial of definitions. Still pretty entertaining if you like Nova, which is kinda like saying you like watching Mark Price pass to Craig Ehlo for a 16-foot jumper instead of a Scottie Pippen alley-oop to Jordan. Okay, that’s a little bit harsh for Nova, he’s nowhere near Ehlo-level. It’s not his fault he was created by Marv Wolfman, and given the name Dick Rider.
Darkhawk is the John Starks of comic books.
(There are probably only about 10 people worldwide that will understand these references.)
Fortunately for you non-basketball-watching guys, I do. Craig Ehlo was a competent player who could have been fine as a complementary player, even playing an important role on the 1986 Houston Rockets, widely reputed to be the greatest team that fell apart too soon. Unfortunately, Michael Jordan made it a point to make big shots on him all the time, including one ridiculously impossible layup that in no way should have gone in. Two famous announcer calls regarding Jordan are "Here's Michael at the foul line, the shot on Ehlo, GOOD!" and "And it always happens to Craig Ehlo!" Poor Craig Ehlo. It's not his fault he was the best guy on that team to defend the greatest player of all time.
Mark Price was an All-Star who played with Craig Ehlo on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the late 80s and early 90s, and is one of the greatest shooters of all time. I wouldn't call him entertaining.
Scottie Pippen was the second best player on Michael Jordan's Bulls, and co-captain of the last three championship teams. He has six championship rings in all and was a complete player, in that he had both offense and defense. He's the greatest perimeter defender I've ever seen, and seeing him live in Manila even at his age a year ago is one of the greatest live event experiences I've ever seen. He's my favorite player of all time.
Michael Jordan is the greatest player of all time.
John Starks is the Darkhawk of the NBA.
War of Kings #2. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Paul Pelletier; Inker: Rick Magyar; Editor: Bill Rosemann
The Shi’ar destroy Kree worlds with their devastating nega-bombs. Gladiator delivers the captive Lilandra to Vulcan. Crystal single-handedly neutralizes a Kree revolt, who were blaming the Inhumans for launching them into a war with the Shi’ar.
The Royal Family, using new weaponry developed by Maximus, and with the help of the Starjammers, make short work of the Shi’ar’s second battlegroup fleet, while also learning the location of the captive Lilandra. Vulcan is less than pleased to hear this, and threatens to kill Lilandra.
My brain thoughts: Yep, Crystal is threatening to make her way on to “the list.”
Guardians of the Galaxy #14. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Brad Walker; Inker: Victor Olazaba; Editor: Bill Rosemann
Adam Warlock faces off against Vulcan, and he demands that Vulcan end this war. Negotiations break down between Starlord’s team and the Inhumans, and they find themselves surrounded by Kree soldiers.
Vulcan drains Warlock of his energy, to the point where he has no choice but to flee. Adam is able to replenish his energy when he is attacked by a Shi’ar spellcaster, and escape. Crystal intervenes before the situation between Starlord and the Inhumans can get any worse. She suggests to Medusa that if there is any truth to the potential damage that could be done to the galaxy, they should confirm for themselves. Medusa disagrees, prompting Phyla to get frustrated and take matters into her own hands, holding Crystal hostage with her sword.
Starlord does not approve, apologizes to the Royal Family, and contacts Cosmo to get them out of there. Adam arrives back on Knowhere seconds before Starlord does. Starlord is shocked to see Phyla arrive with Crystal still as her hostage. Shortly thereafter, Lockjaw teleports in with the Inhumans, at the same time the Shi’ar Imperial Guard arrive.
My brain thoughts: The Guardians are so hilariously dysfunctional. Man, I love them so much.
My final brain thoughts: Parmesan cheese, Kevin Bacon, Crystal, Craig Ehlo, and the black hole that is Darkhawk.
As I get older, and my hate for Lebron and Kobe grows, I have come to realize that I may not have been a fan of the NBA so much as I was just a fan of the Jordan and Pippen Bulls. The game was much more pure back then, and the players were just better. Lebron’s Heat wouldn’t even make the playoffs back in the 1992-93 season, which was the peak of my basketball watching fandom. Game 5 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks is the greatest sporting event in the history of mankind. Suck that, Olympics!
What made Michael Jordan so much better than any other player in history is that he didn’t just win championships, he gave you moments to remember every time. Players these days (get off my lawn) just go out and play and it’s boring to see. But Jordan gave us “the shot” on the Cavs (twice!), the layup, the shrug, the flu game, 54 points on the Suns, the shove, and the list goes on and on. What classic moment has Kobe ever given you?! None, I say! Robert Horry has more memorable highlights from his career. Which is why Kobe is the Wolverine of NBA basketball. I know he’s popular, I just haven’t ever met anyone that will admit they like him.
(LeBron sucks. -Duy)
Next week, more War of Kings.