Tuesday, January 3, 2012

War of Kings: Ascension #4, War of Kings #5 and #6, Nova #28, and War of Kings: Who Shall Rule? #1

War of Kings:  Ascension #4:  OK, DnA make a compelling case for why the Raptors "let" Vulcan confront Black Bolt, recognizing that Vulcan is too impetuous to control and that a broken Imperium will seek a strong hand to guide it, and the Fraternity can be that hand.  I get that part.  I don't get the part about the T-Bomb breaking dark matter and freeing more amulets, because DnA haven't really told us why the amulets are lost in dark matter in the first place.  (Also, now that we're engaged in a full ret-con of Darkhawk's history, someone should tell us how his amulet found its way into a New York amusement park in the first place.)  On the Chris front, DnA really deliver.  I love all his new tricks!  Invisibility, the carbon-fiber suit, the heavy-armor suit:  the list goes on and on!  DnA, as I had hoped, have Chris learn how to use his anger to channel his powers, and, hopefully, do for him what they did for Rich, removing the stumbling block (in Rich's case, his lack of seriousness) that kept him from being a true hero.  I'll focus on wrapping up this series in "Final Thoughts" below, but, for the most part, DnA wrap up all the loose ends that need wrapping here.  Chris ends this series with renewed purpose and greater confidence, just like Nova did at the end of "Annihilation."  I'm hoping we see a lot more of him in the future, because, as I've said before, he's always been one of my favorite characters.

War of Kings #5:  DnA bring the two sides of this war together here, setting up the conclusion to this story in a way that promises little good for either side.  The trick up the Inhuman's sleeve is revealed to be a bomb, called the T-Bomb, that will, if I understand correctly, eliminate all genetic differences between species, ending not only the Kree-Shi'Ar War, but all wars.  However, to accomplish this feat, Black Bolt must be in the T-Bomb at detonation, since it's powered by his voice.  Throughout this series, DnA have set up the Inhumans for some serious comeuppance, and I'm guessing we're going to see that next issue.  Vulcan is also due for a reality check, so I'm guessing that it's no coincidence that he and Black Bolt end this issue facing one another at last.  Although this plot is interesting, DnA really shine when depicting the chaos on Chandilar in the wake of Lilandra's death.  As Admiral Ka'Ardum predicted, in death, Lilandra has become a martyr for the forces opposing Vulcan, inspiring them to take on his regime, resulting in Chandilar erupting into a civil war.  On the other side of that equation, as I mentioned in my last review, it also means that Vulcan is the only one who can unify the Empire.  However, as Alex notes, he's a little busy being insane right now to do so.  DnA also reach back here to "Rise and Fall of the Shi'Ar Empire" to tie up some loose ends.  The Chancellor, who has for so long manipulated events behind the scenes as part of the "Secret Order," is killed by Gladiator for his role (however tenuous) in Lilandra's death.  Moreover, Rachel finally gets revenge on the man who killed her family, a goal that has driven her throughout the X-Men's time in space, but realizes that it doesn't make the hurt over the loss of her family feel any less painful.  This issue wasn't really all that enjoyable to read, but it was definitely exciting, with a certain energy propelling you through the chaos.
War of Kings #6:  As expected, everyone gets their comeuppance in this issue.  Black Bolt and Vulcan fight to the death, and their fight leaves the Shi'Ar totally ruined and the Inhumans emotionally crippled.  To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this conclusion.  I mean, as Alex said a long time ago, I accept the fact that Vulcan (or, more specifically, the Vulcan as portrayed by DnA) had to die.  He had gone too far down the "mad king" road to be able to be saved.  Tactically, he ignored the advice of his generals and damned the Shi'Ar Imperium by spreading its military efforts and his own attention too thin.  I'm not entirely sure I buy how it all gets resolved, though.  On some level, it's a brilliant move, because it separates Black Bolt and Vulcan from the rest of the characters, giving us the "war of kings" that the series promised.  But, the Inhuman's arrogance in creating the T-Bomb (and ability to do so on such short notice) still seems a little difficult to believe.  They were able to put together the device fairly quickly, given that it had the potential to change the genetic structure of everyone in the entire Universe.  It didn't feel totally deus ex machina-y, because DnA had hinted through the series that the Inhumans were planning something big.  But, issues #5 and #6 represented a fairly abrupt change to the narrative, shifting the focus onto the T-Bomb and away from the more personal stories that so far had been driving the series.  Again, it made sense -- Lilandra's death took the possibility of a quick end to the overall war off the table, forcing the Inhuman's decision to engage in a drastic move -- but it still felt a little emotionally shallow.  The ending is more forced on the characters than a result of anything they've done.  I mean, life is like that, so I can't fault DnA for imitating it.  But, it doesn't provide for that emotionally satisfying of a conclusion.  That said, I can't deny that the story was definitely epic, a logical conclusion to Vulcan's journey.

Nova #28:  OK, first, I'm glad to see Robbie survived.  I figured he would, because it wasn't like he exhibited hubris on the level of Black Bolt or Vulcan.  But, all the same, I'm glad he's alive.  DnA bring this story -- and, in fact, the various running sub-plots from the last few issues -- to a logical conclusion in this issue.  Richard notes that he was right opposing the rapid expansion of the Corps, but that Worldmind was also right that the galaxy needed them.  Taking the Centurions who performed the best -- including Robbie -- to form a team of trainee Corpsmen made sense.  I was against Robbie keeping his powers when he first got them, mainly because it seemed to set up a never-ending series of "brother v. brother" storylines that wouldn't really match the tone of this series.  But, I think DnA do a great job of showing how both boys have grown during this arc.  Rich makes a compelling case for Robbie to say, and Robbie probably understands the responsibility that comes with being a member of the Corps better than he did when he thought being a superhero was all fun and games.  I'm all in favor of Robbie being a member of the Corps if we get stories of the two of them working together rather than the ones we've gotten so far, of Robbie trying to outdo Rich.  Changing subjects, I loved the resolution with Blastaar, particularly Rich reminding him that, the last time he faced down someone with the Cosmic Control Rod, he "tore him inside out."  Good stuff.  It was a reminder of the super-competent Rich we saw during "Annihilation."  With so many loose ends resolved, DnA set up some great stories to come:  Rich rebuilding the Corps, Rich and Robbie workings together, the Corps trying to keep peace as the galaxy recovers from the Kree/Shi'Ar War.  It should be an exciting series of issues. 

War of Kings:  Who Shall Rule? #1:  OK, this Fault issue is clearly going to get very interesting.  I only have vague recollections of Magus from the various "Infinity" cross-over events from the '90s, but his appearance at the end of this issue certainly spells trouble for the Shi'Ar Imperium.  (In fact, his appearance reminded me:  where is Adam Warlock?  I thought he would be a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy team, but we didn't see him anywhere in this event.  Maybe he appeared in the tie-in issues in the Guardians' own series, which would make sense.)  At any rate, the rest of this issue goes pretty much as expected.  It was pretty clear Gladiator was going to wind up taking over the Imperium, though, to be honest, I'm not entirely clear on how it happened.  Medusa was seemingly willing to keep control over the Imperium by appointing Crystal regent.  By giving the scepter to Gladiator, Crystal essentially renounces Inhuman/Kree control over the Imperium.  Did she have the power to do that?  Medusa just seems to let her do that, which surprised me, given how passionately Medusa reacted to the Imperial Guard's attempt to resist Inhuman rule.

Final Thoughts:  I really enjoyed this event for the first few issues.  I liked the way that DnA were pulling in all sorts of sub-plots that had been brewing since "X-Men:  Deadly Genesis."  Unfortunately, though , at some point, I feel like they lost the plot a little.

First, even after reading "War of Kings:  Ascension," I feel like the Fraternity of Raptors was a pretty superfluous addition to (and unnecessary distraction from) the event.  In fact, the entire mini-series felt more like an awkward back-door pilot than a vital tie-in series.  DnA didn't really sell the role the Raptors actually played in this series, where they more or less suddenly appeared half-way through the series and then disappeared.  It's no small complaint, though, given that, when they do appear, they assassinate Lilandra, an incident on which the entire event turns.  I feel like DnA probably could've had someone we already knew serve this role without adding in a galactic conspiracy to complicate matters.  Maybe it was Marvel pushing for one more mini-series to sell?  To be fair, I felt similarly about the "Secret Order" in "Rise and Fall of the Shi'Ar Empire," because Brubaker never really fully explained who they were or what they wanted.  I guess it's the nature of these shadowy galactic conspiracies.  But, we still don't know a lot about the Raptors, like why their amulets are lost in dark matter, if they have a grander purpose beyond just helping the Shi'Ar Imperium expand its power, or why they chose Blastaar to take over the Ceded Territories (and why taking over the Ceded Territories was so important).  It's those remaining questions that make me wonder if, indeed, this mini-series was only really intended to be a launching point for a new "Darkhawk" series that never wound up materializing. 

Moreover, I wasn't thrilled with Vulcan's characterization here.  DnA discard some of the nuance Yost gave to the character and portray him as just completely insane.  You begin to wonder why someone as savvy as Ka'Ardum would've thrown in his lot with Vulcan if he were truly this insane.  I mean, Ka'Ardum originally chose Vulcan over Lilandra because he approved of Vulcan's expansionist approach.  But, I feel like Ka'Ardum has been portrayed as a smart enough warrior to know that a truly insane despot would wind up over-committing his troops and bringing ruin to the Imperium.  It's why Yost's Vulcan made Ka'Ardum's support a little more believable, because Vulcan wasn't insane 100 percent of the time.

In the end, I realize that, when it comes to these galactic cross-over events, I basically just want to read "Annihilation" over and over again for the first time, because it was just so perfect.  This event wasn't terrible by any stretch of imagination, but it lacked a certain je ne sais crois that "Annihilation" had.  At the very least, I'm interested in where the various galactic Marvel titles go from here, because the new status quo is definitely different from the previous one.

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