War of Kings #3: Holy crap, this issue is awesome. First, I freaking love Rocket Raccoon. I haven't bought the "Guardians of the Galaxy" series mainly because, really, I've got a huge backlog of back issues I'm trying to read: "New Mutants," "Spider-Man 2099," a good three years or so of "Uncanny X-Men" and "X-Men Legacy," just to name a few. I just can't add another series to the list right now. But, Rocket Raccon telling Gladiator to feel how soft his fur is when Gladiator realizes he's holding a mop, not a "Xarthian quantum cannon," pretty much made this issue for me. But, the good news is that the rest of this issue is also great. The battle between the Guardians and Starjammers and the Imperial Guard is as epic as you'd expect it to be. DnA give everyone, not just Rocket Raccoon, witty moments, and Pelletier draws easily followed action-scenes. Kallark's conversion to Lilandra's side, though essentially foreshadowed in his commentary throughout the series, was still stunning. Pelletier does a great job of drawing the shock on the face of the Shi'Ar warriors and Lilandra herself. (Also, I didn't realize that Smasher was essentially the Ensign Jones of the Imperial Guard.) DnA also move along other plots here, showing that the Inhumans are definitely cooking up something, though it's still unclear what. This series just continues to be great. I honestly have no idea how it's all going to end.
War of Kings: Ascension #3: OK, first, the Raptors. DnA are just really killing me with this plot line. I'm still confused about their goal(s). I get that the Raptors want Blastaar to take back the Ceded Territories from Ravenous, but why? If it's to help Vulcan, why would it help Vulcan to have Blastaar in charge of a territory he didn't own in the first place? Is it because Blastaar, by nature of the wards on the Cosmic Control Rod, would be beholdent to the Raptors, making him more or less beholdent to Vulcan? (Also, I don't think we discover that the Raptors are in theory working for Vulcan until "War of Kings" #4, so, if you're reading this series in order, I'm imaging you'd be really confused.) On the Chris front, I'm think I get where DnA are going, and I like it. Talon wanted Chris to control his anger, because his anger was the thing that would let him exert control over his armor, not hinder him from controling it, as Talon told him. OK, I kind of get that. I also think DnA are saying that all the other Raptors are spirts imbuing the armor because a sacrifice inhabits the physical space in the Null Space, but Chris somehow managed to have his own body be his "sacrifice" and switch between the armor and his body at will. (I think that actually makes the most sense of any Darkhawk origin story I've read.)
War of Kings #4: This issue suffers from a problem common to the last few issues of almost every cross-over event I've ever read, where the story begins to sag under the weight of all the various sub-plots that the authors try to import from the tie-in issues. DnA grapple here with integrating the plot of "War of Kings: Ascension," trying to make the appearance of Talon and Razor appear seamless. We finally learn the goal of the Fraternity of the Raptors, promoting the Shi'Ar Empire. To this end, Talon throws his support behind Vulcan. Cool. I'm still not sure how Blastaar invading the Ceded Territories is going to help on this front, but, whatever, at least we now know, in theory, why DnA have introduced the Raptors to the mix. DnA really screw up the integration of "War of Kings: Ascension" with the assassination plot, though. I mean, when I first read this issue, I thought Darkhawk had assassinated Lilandra, which seemed totally bizarre to me. Now, I understand it was Razor, but I had to go back and read "War of Kings: Ascension" to learn that. I feel like DnA really owed it to the reader to explain this plot point, without forcing us to read an additional four-issue mini-series. In terms of the non-Raptor aspects of the story, DnA do a great job of detailing the chaos of Lilandra's return to Chandilar. As I mentioned in "Rise and Fall of the Shi'Ar Empire," Lilandra, to me, seems to be capable of making an unbelievable number of bad decisions. Here, she seems to make a serious miscalculation in deciding to rush into returning to claim her throne. You'd think she maybe could've spent a little more time rallying the troops on all those planets that we''ve heard are in revolt over excessive war taxes and demanding production deadlines. But, DnA really sell the results of that bad decision, namely the chaos the Starjammers encounter in escorting her on Chandilar. It was almost like watching one of those movies based on Secret Service agents trying to keep the President safe. YOu could feel the tension as they made their way through Chandilar and you could almost hear Alex thinking, "OMG, bad idea." Moreover, Lilandra's death definitely shakes up this entire event, given that we don't really have anyone to challenge Vulcan's rule at this point. His advisers feared she would die a martyr if Vulcan executed her, but it's probably unlikely that she would gather as much support given that she died trying to depose him. I guess we'll see. Meanwhile, Black Bolt is almost definitely working on some grand plan. This whole event doesn't seem like it's going to end well.
Nova #27: OK, first, I have to note pet peeve #2. Although the intro page tells us Robbie turned off his suit tracker, we actually don't hear about that until halfway through this issue. Tsk, tsk. Moving onto the issue itself, DnA really turn up the heat here. Rich arrives at Kree-Lar to find it ravaged by Blastaar and his troops (as we learned in "War of Kings" #4, when Talon informs Vulcan that he has reached an accord with Blastaar). Meanwhile, Robbie learns how hard being a superhero is as he struggles to contain Strontian, who's dying to kill him and Ravenous the minute his power falters. I'm really not sure where DnA are going (in a good way) with the story. The scenes of a devastated Kree-Lar (excellently rendered by DiVito) bring back memories of the Annihilation Wave. But, those memories aren't exactly bad, because they recall how Rich shined when he led the United Front against Annihilius. Rich has been off the game for a while, and I'm thinking his oncoming brawl with Strontian will be just the thing to remind him of who he is. I'm more worried about Robbie, who seems now to realize just how much more complicated superhero-ing is than he thought. I guess we'll see. We've got two more issues of "War of Kings," though, before we get the answer.
Final Thoughts: I enjoyed the first few issues of "War of Kings," but I'm starting to be confused about the story DnA are telling her. At first, we seemed to be telling a Vulcan story, but now we might be telling an Inhumans one, in addition to a Starjammers one. They're not mutually exclusive, obviously, but I feel like splitting the focus between the three groups has started to make the overall plot hard to follow. "Annihilation" moved around a lot, but I felt like it was somehow clearer where the plot was going than it is here. I mean, it's OK for us not to know how the book is going to end, becasue a good story should have some mystery. But, I'm not even sure what sub-plots we've got oustanding at this point. "Annihilation" had some pretty clear sub-plots, so you always knew what the status of all the characters were, whereas "War of Kings" just seems to have people fade into, and out of, view. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the "Nova" tie-in issues, despite the fact that they don't have a lot to do with the main title.