I’m not one to profane. In fact, in the course of a year, you could probably count the number of profanities that escape my lips on one hand. It is in this context that I tell you this: War of Kings #4 continues a four issue streak of a last page that causes an audible variation of “Holy excrement!” when I reach it.
Title: War of Kings #4
Author: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Illustrator(s): Paul Pelletier (pencils), Rick Magyar (inks), Wil Quintana (colours)
Cover Date: August 2009
Ship Date: June 3, 2009
Cover Price: $3.99 US
Superior Inhuman tactics and faith from the Kree people are doing very well in the war against the numerous, well equipped, but overstretched Shi’Ar Empire under Vulcan’s rule. They even have a plan that may bring a rapid, bloodless end to the war, but Vulcan has his own universal backing.
As mentioned in the introduction, and as with the previous three issues, this has an incredible final page. Before you get there, there’s also some great moments with Talon (seen in “War of Kings: Darkhawk” and “War of Kings: Ascension”) and Crystal.
If you aren’t reading the tie-ins but would recognize Darkhawk, this would probably cause some serious confusion in several places, including that ending.
This still feels original. Tie-ins that seemed unrelated early on are weaving in nicely, and this is going places with Marvel’s cosmic landscape that haven’t been visited before. It’s also nice to see a superhero comic event where “don’t fight” is Plan A and “fight” is Plan B. I give it 5 out of 6.
The artwork is great. There are a lot of characters to keep track of, and the Shi’Ar have little variation in hair, so they need to be tracked by face. Still, with Pelletier’s pencils, that’s not a problem. Moreover, he uses small, tight panels when appropriate to jam more onto a page than we often see nowadays. There’s no down time in this series, and Pelletier keeps the pace up nicely. Because of that pace, there’s not a lot of time to use dialogue to reveal character feelings and attitudes. Just look at Gladiator; he’s always been loyal to whomever sits on the throne, with a loyalty to Lilandra that may go beyond the usual. I’ve always read the character as one with an unspoken, unrequited love of his Empress, but I’ve often felt that was my own interpretation. The art in these last two issues convinces me that Pelletier agrees. Similarly, Korvus Rook’shir has a total of one line in the issue (“And you’ve misread my willingness to listen to you talk crap, Araki.”) yet his emotions are easy to follow throughout. Magyar and Quintana work well, too. I’m particularly impressed with Havok on their end; the inking is almost solid black, but his form is still well defined, and the colour choices make it appear as though the page I’m reading is glowing. The emotions on the final page are equally clear. We barely see half of Gladiator’s forehead, let alone the rest of his face, but his emotions are clear. I give it 6 out of 6.
The story is maintaining the solid pace it’s had from the start. The pieces fit logically, the dialogue is rapid, sometimes funny, and often tinged with hints of even greater things to come. Abnett and Lanning are steering so much of this event on their own that it holds together extremely well. This event may be smaller than “Secret Invasion” and “Civil War” by sales and count of tie-ins, but the scope and consistency of quality are hard to beat. I give it 5 out of 6.
The characterization is working very well. There are a lot of individual moments for some of the key players, while the rest of the large cast are held together by Pelletier’s art. Everyone behaves in character, though they don’t all get a chance to develop. With a cast this size, that’s enough. I give it 5 out of 6.
The emotional response is great. There are a lot of threads being woven together, and I’m dying to see the conclusion to each of them. I’m even developing interest in characters like Gladiator. Gladiator was originally a “Marvelized” Superman, and didn’t have much going for him beyond that. Turning him into a soldier fiercely loyal to an empire, and not any particular ruler, made him palatable as a background character, but not as a lead. Given the option with this creative team, I’d pick up a solo title for him in a second. They’re elevating all of these characters to major players, much like they (and Giffen) did with Nova during Annihilation. I give it 6 out of 6.
The flow sets its own pace. Once I start reading, I’m hooked at a fast pace to the finish. The less control I have over my reading speed, the more credit I need to give the creators for putting it all together. I give it 6 out of 6.
Overall, it’s another solid entry in a great event. If you like cosmic, go get it. If you don’t like cosmic, try this one: it might change your mind. I give it 6 out of 6.
In total, War of Kings #4 receives 39 out of 42.