Jun 24, 2013

Back Issue Ben: Guarding the Galaxy, Part 18: Wars... Still, of Kings

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Part Eighteen: Wars... Still 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.

Previously, on Back Issue Ben: Vulcan, the younger brother of Cyclops, somehow has found a way to be even more annoying than his older brother. He does some things, becomes ruler of the Shi’ar, kills some aliens. The Inhumans get involved, things happen.

Look, just read last week’s recap. Let’s fry this bacon.

War of Kings #3. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Paul Pelletier; Inker: Rick Magyar; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Vulcan’s advisors convince him not to kill Lilandra, to avoid making her a martyr figure. Crystal updates Ronan at his bedside about the significant progress the Kree have been making in the war, under the leadership and guidance of the Inhumans.

Black Bolt had originally promised to institute an Uplift Program, which would use the Terrigen Mists to force the evolution of the Kree race, but the Kree have proved to be non-responsive to the mists. Havok and the Starjammers, flanked by members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, launch a rescue mission to save Lilandra.

 Rocket Raccoon takes care of Gladiator with what he calls a Xarthian Quantum Cannon.

The Guardians easily take out the rest of the Guard, while Havok and Polaris free Lilandra from her cell. Gladiator eventually realizes that he is under telepathic attack from Marvel Girl, not a quantum cannon, and breaks free.

He comes face to face with Lilandra, but she is able to finally convince him that his loyalty for the throne is going to lead to the destruction of their people. Gladiator, long already wavering in his steadfast commitment to Vulcan, finally decides to rejoin Lilandra’s side in most brutal fashion.

My brain thoughts: Rocket Raccoon incapacitates Gladiator, at least for a little while, which means that he basically kicked Superman’s ass (or is it Mon-El?). (Who cares which one it is, really? -Duy) Gladiator is basically Superman, if Superman had a mohawk instead of a mullet. Indisputable proof that Rocket Raccoon is a better character than Superman.

Guardians of the Galaxy #15. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Brad Walker; Inker: Victor Olazaba and Livesay; Editor: Bill Rosemann

The Inhumans and Imperial Guard have beamed aboard Knowhere, with the Guardians caught in the middle.

As the battle rages, Crystal breaks free from Phyla’s grip and asks Starlord once again about the fissures. Mantis is able to telepathically show her the damage to the universe that they’ve seen. Black Bolt lets loose a mighty scream, clearing some space for him to grab Crystal, and then Lockjaw teleports the Inhumans out. With the Inhumans gone, the Guard return to their original mission to capture Adam Warlock. Starlord and the team retreat, asking for help from the council and the Luminals, but they decline to assist. The Guard search Knowhere for Warlock, while Starhawk, still in restraints, draws Moondragon to her. A portion of the Guard tracks Adam Warlock down, but he undergoes an unsettling transformation before killing them all (the Magus?).

Starhawk, Jack Flag, Mantis, Bug, and Cosmo find a clear place to regroup, but Starhawk comes teleporting in, and then teleports them all away to parts unknown.

 In the continuum cortex, Rocket and his team arrive (having just assisted in freeing Lilandra) just in time to prevent the Guard from taking control of the cortex. They are able to drive out the Shi’ar, and then regroup back in their control center. As Moondragon reveals to the rest of the team how Starhawk was able to take control of her mind and kidnap the others, suddenly, Knowhere springs back to life, and calls out to Adam Warlock.

My brain thoughts: The corruption of Adam Warlock is a key plot point going forward.

War of Kings #4. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Paul Pelletier; Inker: Rick Magyar; Editor: Bill Rosemann

The war is not going well for the Shi’ar, and Vulcan narrowly escapes being killed by a Kree Sentry when he is saved by the raptor Talon (Darkhawk mini). Gladiator has returned to the side of Lilandra, who addresses the Shi’ar parliament to try and convince them to end the war and restore her to the throne.

The Shi’ar people rally around their former Majestrix, while Chancellor Araki opposes her return. Talon reveals to Vulcan that the Fraternity of Raptors was created to keep the Shi’ar imperium strong, and that he will help him defeat the Kree. While pro-Vulcan forces riot in the streets, Lilandra decides to walk on foot to the temple (as a show of strength) where she will renew her oath as Majestrix. They are, of course, ambushed by Araki’s wetworks squad.

In the confusion, Lilandra is assassinated.

My brain thoughts: If Craig Ehlo and Tobey Maguire had a child together, it would get beat in basketball by Michael Jordan, and Marv Wolfman would write the comic book adaptation.

War of Kings: Ascension #1-4. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Wellinton Alves; Inker: Scott Hanna and Nelson Pereira; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Darkhawk and Talon have travelled to the Negative Zone, to retrieve the cosmic control rod and use it to affect the balance of the war. Chris finally fully bonds with the armor, only to find out that the Fraternity of Raptors is a sinister force. The armor takes control, erasing Chris and replacing him with a being called Razor.

Chris finds himself trapped in a strange place called the null source, where he meets a Skrull held in stasis by Talon the same way that Razor is holding him. Talon and Razor present the cosmic control rod to Blastaar, as incentive to help the Shi’ar in the war. Chris uses his newfound knowledge of the armor to regain control of it, but, unfortunately for him, he does so right after Razor assassinates Lilandra.

Later, Chris confronts Talon and forces him to release the Skrull from the null source. The Skrull charges Chris with destroying all the amulets of the Raptors to prevent them from returning, and then commits suicide to keep Talon from returning. With the entire galaxy believing him to have killed Lilandra, Darkhawk is a wanted fugitive.

My brain thoughts: This was a shockingly entertaining mini-series, considering it revolves around Darkhawk. The art by Alves is some of the best of the entire event, and the reveal of the true purpose of the Fraternity of Raptors was truly surprising. Wow, Darkhawk delivering the good stuff, didn’t see that one coming.

War of Kings #5. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Paul Pelletier; Inker: Rick Magyar; Editor: Bill Rosemann

The Inhumans mourn the death of Lilandra, and prepare to initiate their endgame for the war. Vulcan celebrates the death of Lilandra.  Black Bolt prepares to release a weaponized terrigen mist bomb at the Shi’ar, transforming them with its mutagenic properties, erasing all lines of division. Crystal vehemently argues against this course of action.

Gladiator and the Starjammers, in their rage and sorrow, fight through Araki’s forces.

 Black Bolt, after considering the plan of action one last time, launches the t-bomb into Shi’ar space, with himself as the pilot, which comes as a surprise to the devastated Medusa. He uses his powers to activate the bomb, just as Vulcan comes crashing into the ship to face Black Bolt one-on-one.

My brain thoughts: Black Bolt comes through with one of the all-time dumbest plans.

Guardians of the Galaxy #16. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Wes Craig; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Starhawk returns to the future, year 3009, with Starlord, Bug, Cosmo, Jack Flag, and Mantis in tow. Before they can attack Starhawk, they are attacked themselves, by the original Guardians of the Galaxy. The two teams fight, before eventually calling a time out to figure out what is going on. Starhawk explains to them that she finally was able to pinpoint what has been altering the timestream, a massive fault brought about by the war between the Shi’ar and the Kree, caused by Black Bolt and his t-bomb. Starlord is furious. Before they can recharge the time machine to travel back and stop this from happening, the Badoon attack. The time machine is destroyed in the attack. Starhawk sacrifices herself to kill the Badoon, and give the others a chance to escape. Cosmo develops a new plan of attack. The Badoon had enslaved the remaining Celestials, and used them to create a cage around the power source formed from the Earth’s dying sun, called the Celestial Engine.

All Celestials are connected throughout space and time, so they will travel to the Celestial Engine, and use it to send a message back to the past. They arrive at the Engine, and teleport inside, under constant attack from the Badoon. Cosmo is able to get the message out to Adam Warlock (see the end of issue #15), and Major Victory uses his powers to knock a Celestial out of alignment, causing them all to fall into the sun inside. Starlord and his team are left to wonder if the message got through as they fade into the light.

My brain thoughts: This almost makes me want to read some issues of the original Guardians of the Galaxy, but I am fairly certain that will just lead me down a road of despair of Ehlo-Maguire-Wolfman proportions. (It's not that bad, the 90s series, for the first 25 issues, and is even quite fun.  Then it just devolves into a horrible, horrible mess that is the godfather of continuity porn. -Duy)

War of Kings #6. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Paul Pelletier; Inker: Rick Magyar; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Black Bolt and Vulcan are locked in furious combat. Crystal has Lockjaw teleport her to the t-bomb so she can prevent is from going off. Havok and Polaris look out upon the devastated Shi’ar throneworld and lament the fall of the imperium. Gladiator retrieves the damaged imperial scepter, and returns outside, where he is hailed by the Shi’ar people as their new Majestor. Vulcan has Black Bolt on the ropes, until Black Bolt releases a deadly scream, frying Vulcan where he stands.

Crystal neutralizes the terrigen crystals with her powers, and tries to evacuate Black Bolt. As they prepare to leave, the still burning Vulcan tackles Black Bolt while Crystal and Lockjaw teleport out. 

Black Bolt lets loose with one final devastating release of power, causing a massive explosion, and tearing a massive hole in the fabric of space and time. The Shi’ar surrender to the Inhumans, just as Crystal and Lockjaw return without Black Bolt.

My brain thoughts: I think if you put Vulcan in a room with Terry Long and Rick Jones, the universe might implode upon itself. Marv Wolfman would write the screenplay for Tobey Maguire to star in the big budget film version. Somewhere, Craig Ehlo is crying.

Guardians of the Galaxy #17. Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Brad Walker; Inkers: Victor Olazaba and Scott Hanna; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Rocket and the Guardians try to make sense of the message from the Celestial, which Moondragon confirms to be from Peter Quill at some point in the future. But they are already too late, as Black Bolt’s bomb has already created a massive fissure in the fabric of time and space. The Guardians travel to Attilan, to confront the Inhumans over their tremendous mistake. As they argue, giant monstrous tentacles emerge from the fault, and ensnare Attilan. Organisms sprout forth from the tentacles and attack. The Inhumans and the Guardians decide to team together to defeat the creatures, and contain the damage. Rocket, Groot, Maximus,and Crystal work to remove the tentacle problem, where Maximus reveals that Groot is actually a genius, and that he actually says quite a bit underneath his shouts of “I am Groot!”

Maximus and Groot rig up a device that removes the tentacles and their creatures. Universal Church of Truth templeships arrive, while Adam Warlock tries to keep the fault from expanding any wider. To do so, he needs to design a complex and large-scale enchantment, powered by the faith generators of the U.C.T. Time and space have torn loose, so to fix it, Adam will have to connect our present to an unused future. Adam is able to successfully cease the expansion of the fault. Rocket congratulates Adam on saving the universe.

Suddenly, Adam is stabbed from behind by Phyla, who reveals that in her pact with Oblivion, she was tasked with killing the avatar of life.

 Gamora attacks Phyla, stabbing her through the chest.

Gamora runs to Adam, only to find the face of evil itself, the Magus. To save the universe, Adam used the future where he would become the evil Magus.

The Magus snaps Gamora’s neck, and raises his hands to the stars, as the Universal Church of Truth bows down before him.

My brain thoughts: Yes, this makes it all almost worth it. Warlock going full Jordan all over Ehlo and the Cavaliers. Reading War of Kings has been about as fun as reading a Duy column, but now we’re finally starting to get to the good stuff.

War of Kings: Who Will Rule? Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning; Penciler: Paul Pelletier; Inker: Andrew Hennessy; Editor: Bill Rosemann

Gladiator resists becoming the new Shi’ar Majestor. A young female member of the Araki sequence (family) tries to convince him to accept it. The Inhumans travel to the Shi’ar throneworld, as a show of peace. Crystal prepares to be named Majestrix of the Shi’ar, as she is the next in line to rule after her sister Medusa. Gladiator works to free more people trapped by debris. Crystal joins him, and also tries to convince him to lead his people, so that she doesn’t have to. The remains of Vulcan’s Imperial Guard arrive and attack the Inhumans. As the battle rages, Gladiator has had enough. Gladiator demands that everyone stop, and accepts the imperial scepter from Crystal, making him the new Majestor of the Shi’ar.

 The young Araki female slips away, transforming back into Talon before disappearing. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the galaxy, the Magus threatens to rule them all.

My brain thoughts: All of this just so Gladiator can be in charge of the Shi’ar?

My final brain thoughts: Giant space holes, Superman loses to a raccoon, Lilandra gets smoked, Darkhawk isn’t as lame as we thought, and Adam Warlock is a bit of a jerk.

Now that I’ve recovered from the sheer unadulterated madness that possessed me to read War of Kings, we can move on to bigger and better things, like when Craig Ehlo joined the Atlanta Hawks, or when Tobey Maguire made that horse movie. The epic-itude-iness of Guardians of the Galaxy awaits, and I, for one, cannot wait to read it in all of its glory (and in all my glory….yes, I mean naked).

Naked Rocket Raccoon book-reading aside, it’s time to say goodbye for this week my friends (friend?). I feel like we’ve grown a little closer together, in these traumatizing times of War of Kings retrospecting. I know it’s made me a better person (which isn’t difficult) and I hope it’s made you a better person (also not that difficult). Maybe we’ve all learned a little something, and that something is…never read Superman comics.

Next time!

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