Officially launching in March, War of Kings is the next Marvel cosmic “side event,” following in the footsteps of The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire, Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest and continuing the general story of strife and upheaval that has hit all corners of the cosmic landscape. We are currently in the middle of the buildup for War of Kings, and I thought I would take the time to talk about what we’ve seen, what we’re going to see, and where you need to go to catch up.
If you want to boil things down to their absolute essential elements, the build for War of Kings can be found via two books: Ed Brubaker’s The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire (as found in hardcover, trade paperback and issue form as Uncanny X-Men 475-486) and Joe Pokaski’s Secret Invasion: Inhumans (a four issue miniseries to be released in trade in April). The reason you don’t really have to go beyond these books is the fact that from what we’ve seen so far, it’s readily apparent that War of Kings will chiefly revolve around Black Bolt and Vulcan, the sovereigns of the Inhumans and Shi’ar, respectively. Now, I personally have not yet read Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire (I hope to soon now that I have a bit more cash flow than I have recently) or its follow-up series “X-Men: Emperor Vulcan,” so all I have seen involving Vulcan as the leader of the Shi’ar can be found on X-Men Kingbreaker #1 and Secret Invasion: War of Kings. Vulcan is the third Summers brother, following Cyclops and Havok. He seized power over the Shi’ar and proclaimed himself emperor after killing D’Ken and neutralizing Charles Xavier.
Black Bolt, as anyone who has followed the Inhumans knows, is the King of the Inhumans and has been ever since these characters existed in comics. Recently, after the events of Silent War, Black Bolt was replaced as king by his crazy brother Maximus (the Mad), but it is discovered that Black Bolt was in fact a Skrull, and once the original Black Bolt was rescued during Secret Invasion: Inhumans, it was decided that not only would Black Bolt and Maximus basically become co-rulers of the Inhumans, but they would stop taking everyone else’s crap and actually go on the offensive for once. Despite the fact that the Inhumans were created by the alien Kree race in order to be used as living military weapons, they have always rebelled against their creators and the rest of the world, content to live in peace and seclusion. However, no one else seems to be interested in actually letting this happen, and the Inhumans have been constantly set upon by humans, mutants (thanks, Quicksilver!), the Hulk, the Kree, most recently the Skrulls, and so on and so forth, that they’ve finally realized that they have to do something if they want to live their lives in their own way.
On the other side of the coin is the group of folks stuck in the middle, the Guardians of the Galaxy. They’ve recently been splintered into tiny groups, with Star Lord out on his own, Adam Warlock and Quasar beginning their assault on the Universal Church of Truth, Drax and Gamora trying to track down Cammy, and the rest of the ragtag bunch continuing their crusade under the name. The biggest part of this that relates to War of Kings is the Star Lord portions of the story, as Peter Quill was sent to the Negative Zone by the Kree (to get back at him for allowing the Phalanx to infiltrate Hala during Annihilation: Conquest) to find that Blastaar has proclaimed himself king of the Negative Zone and has aspirations to expand his dominion into Earth via the dimension gate in Prison 42. It sure seems like Blastaar is going to be right there alongside Black Bolt and Vulcan vying for power. And when you’ve got someone like Adam Warlock with his power level and history in the cosmic terrain, as well as the recreated Nova Corps headed up by Nova Prime Richard Rider, there is so much potential for where they can go.
That brings us to Secret Invasion: War of Kings, which is basically designed to lead into the event in the same way as the Prologue one shots for both Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest. Now, granted, 80% of that one shot was about the Inhumans with only a passing mention of Blaastar (which was a nice touch, because it reinforced events from Guardians of the Galaxy) and a short little back-up about Vulcan, but it still showed us exactly where we’re going. The Inhumans have decided to stop taking things lying down, and are officially on the offensive. They take out the rest of the fleeing Skrull armada (which presumes to be how they justified the Secret Invasion part of the title) and throw a full assault on the Kree homeworld of Hala, which culminates in the subordination of Ronan the Accuser at the feet of Black Bolt. The Inhumans portion of the issue ends there, and the rest of the book is dedicated to a quick little scene with Vulcan fighting in a gladiatorial arena, vanquishing his foe for the entertainment of the Shi’ar public. He then gets an update about what the Inhumans just did to the Kree, and decides that anything the Inhumans can do, the Shi’ar can do better, and this will be the perfect time to expand his territory. So you have the Inhumans reaching out on the one side, and the Shi’ar pushing out on the other side, and they are more than headed for a collision course. So this is the premise: Black Bolt versus Vulcan in a battle for space supremacy. Sounds pretty sweet to me.
I’ve also included a few lines that chart the flow of these characters through their major appearances over the last few years. I wouldn’t say all of it is essential, but it’ll give you everything you need going into War of Kings.
X-Men: Deadly Genesis -> The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire -> X-Men: Emperor Vulcan -> X-Men: Kingbreaker -> War of Kings
Decimation: Son of M -> Silent War -> Secret Invasion: Inhumans -> Secret Invasion: War of Kings -> War of Kings
Annihilation -> Nova 1-8 -> Annihilation: Conquest -> Nova/Guardians of the Galaxy -> War of Kings: Darkhawk -> War of Kings