Marvel’s latest cosmic event, whose first issue hit shelves today, will also get the full blown event treatment. How does it start? UPDATED: My short history of the Inhumans had a typo that’s now corrected.

General Information

Title: War of Kings #1

Author: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (collectively referred to in the Marvel offices as “DnA”)
Illustrator(s): Paul Pelletier (pencils), Rick Magyar (inks) and Wil Quintana (colors)
Cover Date: May, 2009
Cover Price: $3.99 US

Premise

This is the culmination of several different aspects and storylines in the Marvel Universe. The main ones as far as this issue is concerned are as follows:

  • Inhumans – Thousands of years ago, the Kree tinkered in human genetics and created the Inhumans with the intent of making them into an elite fighting force for the Kree military. The Inhumans broke free of Kree control and lived in isolation on Earth until very recently, when they made first contact with the Fantastic Four. They eventually moved to the Blue Area of the moon, originally created by the Kree as a habitable region, to maintain their isolation. When the Skrulls captured and replaced Black Bolt during their recent invasion of Earth, the policy changed. Black Bolt used the technology created by his brother, Maximus the Mad, and took the Inhuman city of Attilan to the stars. They wiped out the remnants of the Skrull invasion fleet, and headed out into Kree space.
  • Kree – A warrior race, they suffered major losses during the recent “Annihilation” and “Annihilation: Conquest” events. Ronan the Accuser, a soldier, was left running the empire, but he wasn’t cut out for a leadership role. They used their shield technology to isolate themselves and rebuild, until the Inhumans penetrated the shield and Black Bolt assumed leadership of the empire, bringing the Inhumans back into the fold as the Kree elite they were designed to be.
  • The Shi’Ar – A race descended from birds, they were once a major invasive power in the galaxy. Under the leadership of Lilandra Neramani, they stopped their agressive ways, and became a more peaceful people in general. Individuals within the Shi’Ar disliked this new policy, as well as Lilandra’s close relationship with Charles Xavier, which caused a lot of tension.
  • The Starjammers – A group of rebels, originally formed to oppose the agressive Shi’Ar, they fight against the Shi’Ar to free the worlds that are still controlled. Lilandra prevented further expansion, but she didn’t release any captive worlds.
  • The Summers brothers – Scott and Alex Summers, better known as Cyclops and Havok of the X-Men, lived for years believing themselves to be the sole survivors of their family. This wasn’t the case. Thier father, Nathaniel, had been imprisoned by the Shi’Ar, and eventually assumed a leadership role in the Starjammers. Their older brother, Vulcan, was captured and tortured even longer, causing severe psychological damage. As the most powerful mutant of the three, he snapped, and left Earth in what appeared to be a war against the Shi’Ar. It was learned that his goal was actually to usurp the throne. He now serves as Emperor of the Shi’Ar, and has turned them back to their colonizing habits. Alex Summers led a group of X-Men to stop him, who eventually integrated themselves with the current Starjammers.

This story picks up on the current status quo of those groups listed above. Crystal (of the Inhumans) and Ronan the Accuser are about to wed to cement the union of their peoples, while Vulcan is about to lead the Shi’Ar into an expansion through Kree territory. Things are further aggravated when Lilandra and the Starjammers seek asylum in Kree space.

High Point

The tale of how the Starjammers came to attend Crystal’s wedding is highly amusing, and an excellent introduction to the characters for those unfamiliar with the histories involved. Despite the amount of background detailed above, this is a surprisingly accessible issue for those not fully versed in Marvel’s cosmic history.

Low Point

Page one, panel one spoils the as yet unpublished “X-Men: Kingbreaker #4.”

The Scores

This doesn’t seem original yet. Not all of the players are on the board, going by the solicited tie-in issues and the characters on the Ron Lim variant cover, but at the moment, it’s the standard “wedding attacked by enemy forces” issue right up until the last three or four pages. It’s fun and very fast-paced, but we’ve seen most of it before. I give it 3 out of 6.

The artwork is well done, particularly given the variety and density of characters involved. I give it 5 out of 6.

The story starts out moving at an intense pace, stays very funny during the slow moments, and then kicks back into high gear. It pulls in a lot of recent history, but introduces the key points quickly enough to stay accessible. I give it 5 out of 6.

The characterization of most characters is pretty light. In 25 pencilled pages, there are important moments for Havok, Lilandra, Polaris, Black Bolt, Medusa, Gladiator, Crystal, Ronan, Ch’od, Maximus and Vulcan. Also, there are two major action set pieces, and most of a wedding. Nobody gets a lot of depth, but the quick moments are in line with their personalities. I give it 4 out of 6.

The emotional response is great. This is an opening issue that not only delivered on my expectations, but exceeded them. This seems to be shaping up to the quality of the original “Annihilation” more than “Annihilation: Conquest.” It went from fun action, to fun pre-wedding banter, to a surprisingly brutal battle in very little space. I give it 6 out of 6.

The flow is smooth and rapid. This is a self-pacing issue, which is really the pinnacle of this category. I give it 6 out of 6.

Overall, this is a great opener to the event. If you’ve ever enjoyed an issue of Marvel cosmic anything, pick this up. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, War of Kings #1 receives 34 out of 42.

War of Kings Checklist

  • War of Kings #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, complete series
  • Guardians of the Galaxy #8-10, 13-17
  • Nova #23-29
  • Secret Invasion: War of Kings
  • War of Kings: Ascension #1-4
  • War of Kings: Darkhawk #1-2
  • War of Kings: Warriors (online only) Gladiator, Crystal, Blastaar and Lilandra
  • X-Men: Kingbreaker #1-4