This series, which finished this week, serves as a prologue for the series that started earlier this month.
Title: X-Men: Kingbreaker
Author: Christopher Yost
Pencils: Dustin Weaver worked solo on the first two issues, and together with Paco Diaz on the last two
Inks: Jaime Mendoza worked solo on issue one, and was joined by Victor Olazaba on issue two and Vincente Cifuentes on issues 3 and 4.
Colours: Nathan Fairbairn did issues 1, 3 and 4 solo, and had support from John Rauch on issue 2.
Cover Date: February through May 2009
Cover Price: $3.99 US each
Collected in “War of Kings: Road to War of Kings,” a TPB including these issues, the Secret Invasion: War of Kings one shot, and the “War of Kings Saga” free promotional comic designed to get new readers up to speed. Collection available from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca.
Following the X-Men: Emperor Vulcan miniseries, we find Havok, Polaris, Ch’od and Raza Longknife are in custory, while Rachel Summers, Lilandra Neramani, Korvus Rook’shir and Cr+eee are free, trying to track them down to win Lilandra back control of the Shi’Ar Empire, wrested away from her by Havok’s younger and insane brother Gabriel, aka Vulcan. Vulcan has returned the Shi’Ar to their agreesive expansionist ways, and is holding the prisoners at the bottom of the ocean on a prison planet. Raza has had his cybernetics removed (to prevent him from killing even more guards), Lorna is kept on very heavy drugs, Havok has been drained and insulated beyond the point where he can recharge his powers in any reasonable length of time, and Ch’od is doing as much psychological damage to his captors as they do to him. (Ch’od’s reaction to having his chest scorched by a sharp, hard implement? “Really? This is it? Hrm. Your lines lack confidence, and the complete absence of style is sad, yes? You should try again.”)
It’s really spoilery. Let me say this: the X-Men have a huge and diverse cast, so I’ve generally found it hard to pick an absolute favourite, instead having a favourite group. Havok was always in the top five, but I could never really put the top five in any real order (though Cyclops was, on average, nearest the top.) As of the final issue of this series, Havok has become my favourite Marvel mutant with room to spare.
The publication timing. This story ends immediately before “War of Kings #1” begins, but the last issue wasn’t published until almost a month later.
This has a few original elements. The story itself is a natural continuation and bridge between what appeared to be two “larger” stories, but the last issue of this has several big implications for the X-universe in general, let alone this group in particular. We see the backbone that Lilandra would need to rule an empire, and we see what happens to Havok when he loses his temper, with or without his solar powered abilities. Add in a moment that seems to set up this cover image to June’s issue of Uncanny X-Men, and it’s a pretty packed series. Most of this takes place in the last issue, but that and the new Imperial Guard leave a pretty lasting impression. I give it 5 out of 6.
The artwork is generally good, especially considering multiple teams worked on the issues. It’s always clear, and usually pretty fluid. A couple of Havok’s face shots look pretty stiff, but most of the time it’s strong, particularly the work with Polaris. (It seems she’s not the kind of person you want to wake up…) I give it 5 out of 6.
The story doesn’t stand alone particularly well. It’s well told as the bridge, but if you haven’t read “Emperor Vulcan” and don’t follow up with “War of Kings,” you’re going to know you stepped into and out of a story in the middle. It feels like the middle chapter in a trilogy or other sized series. As a middle chapter, it’s very well done, but it’s not one to pick up on its own (which is probably why it’s being collected in the “Road to Civil War” trade instead of a trade of its own.) I give it 4 out of 6.
The characterization is strong. We get a better feel for Vulcan, and there’s great work done with Havok and Ch’od. I give it 5 out of 6.
The emotional response builds very nicely. The first three issues were all “piece moving” issues with some comic relief from Ch’od, and then the last issue really, really takes off in high gear. Issue four elevates the rest of the series nicely. I give it 5 out of 6, but that’s a 4 for the first three issues and 6 for the last.
The flow worked for me. The internal flow for this portion of the story is quite nice,
but the start and end will be jarring if read in isolation. I give it 4 out of 6.
Overall, it meets its goals very well. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people who signed on for the “X-Men” portion stick around for “War of Kings” because of the strength of this issue. (“War of Kings #1” is even better; go read it legally and for free if you don’t believe me.) I give it 5 out of 6 (again with the last issue bringing the 4 up on its own.)
In total, X-Men: Kingbreaker #1-4 recieve 33 out of 42.