Mar 19, 2013

[Comics] War of Kings (Marvel)

It has always been a little interesting how the Marvel universe more or less operates on two nearly separate levels. You have the Earthbound heroes like The Avengers who deal with mad super-villains bent on taking over the world and you have the cosmic heroes like the Guardians of the Galaxy who deal with threats to...all of existence. In recent years Mavel has been trying to explore their more cosmic-scale stories, going all the way to creating multi-comic crossover events specifically focused on these heroes.

This is not to say that one class of heroes is more important than the other (although I'm sure they have their respective opinions about this subject). But their stories typically operate on a different level.

The old Infinity crossovers tried to blend the two by involving Earth's heroes with the battles against the likes of Thanos, Magus and Goddess. But more recently we've moved away from that and instead depicted their stories as going-on without having to deal with the Earthers. And it has certainly presented some interesting stories indeed.

Synopsis: War of Kings is a 2009 Marvel comics crossover storyline written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who have been primarily responsible for most of the cosmic books involved including Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova.

After the events of Secret Invasion, the Inhumans decide to return to the Kree and claim their rights to rule as the imperial family. To secure this deal of sorts, it is decided to have Ronan the Accuser marry Crystal of the Inhumans. At the same time, Emperor Vulcan of the Shi'ar Empire decide to expand, thus bringing them into direct conflict with the Kree. But the Kree are just one part of Vulcan's greater military campaign to conquer all of the universe.

Thus the story is told from different perspectives to reflect this. The Kree side of the story is primarily told in a mini-series that follows the Inhumans and their rule of the Kree. We also follow the Starjammers since Vulcan makes them involved in this story. And we have the likes of Gladiator of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard to give us some perspective on the Shi'ar Empire.

Of course the main "heroes" of sorts trying to sort things out are the Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova who try to stop the war on both sides. They're not trying to side with one faction or the other but instead are determined to preserve the peace. Plus given the aftereffects of the past cosmic threats depicted in Annihilation and Annihilation Conquest\ and such, they recognize the delicate state of universe itself. Another great conflict may threaten the very stability of the fabric of reality.

And the story also introduces a secret group known as the Fraternity of Raptors, which presents us with a new origin for the hero Darkhawk. Now it turns out that he's part of some larger secret society that has been manipulating cosmic events from behind the scenes. It's not entirely clear what their overall motives are, but at this point they seem to be in support of the Shi'ar Empire.

When two races go to war, it's pretty nasty business. And it's interesting to see how so amny other beings are just swept up in the conflict given the scale of the powers at the disposal of the Kree and the Shi'ar, what more with the help of the Inhumans. As much as the Inhumans have been largely Earthbound as part of their exile, it was nice to see them finally return to the cosmic stage in full force and clearly demonstrate just what sets them apart from all others.

And this conflict represents one of the first major "police" actions of the now-expanded Nova Corps, regardless of how Richard Rider feels about the actions of the Worldmind. It shows itself as a good demonstration of why training cannot replace Worldmind-empowered knowledge. At the same time the Guardians split up in order to address the cause of the war more directly by addressing both Vulcan and the Inhumans at the same time. But maybe it doesn't always work out well.

At times the story did seem rather tiring - especially a lot of Guardians introspective ramblings and the Starjammers pretty much just running around all over the place. But the end result is still quite the epic conflict indeed, which I assume was the main goal of the writers this time around. And the Fraternity of Raptors are just a bunch of bastards, quite frankly.

The story also reminded us just how powerful the Inhumans are - and I'm not just talking about Black Bolt's fearsome voice. Let's put it this way - the Shi'ar Imperial Guard practically has roles more than personalities and thus some are mere replacements of past Guardsmen. The Inhumans - especially the Royal Family - are always going to be the Inhumans.

War of Kings may not be the most polished of stories, but it's still a great adventure and an enjoyable read. It's a good idea to take a little trip down these comics in order to better appreciate what makes the Marvel cosmic stories work.
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