War of Kings #4 Review

War of Kings continues to be an incredibly enjoyable big event. DnA are putting on a clinic on how to deliver a big event that truly feels like an epic tale. There is no doubt in my mind that War of Kings #4 is going to be another entertaining read. Let’s do this review.

Creative Team
Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Pencils: Paul Pelletier
Inks: Rick Magyar

Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Admiral Ka’Ardum informing Vulcan that the Shi’ar forces have been pushed to the limit and are beginning to crack. That there are uprisings and rebellions on many planets in the Shi’ar Empire. And that the Shi’ar military cannot maintain the aggressive campaign that Vulcan is demanding. Ka’Ardum says that if Vulcan keeps up this pace then the Shi’ar military will crack from the strain in a matter of months.

Vulcan is enraged at Ka’Ardum’s talk. Vulcan has no desire to slow down or lessen the intensity of his military campaign. Suddenly, we see a Kree Sentinel break through the defenses of Vulcan’s ship. Vulcan is about to destroy the Sentinel when we see Talon (From the Darkhawk mini-series: War of Kings: Ascension.) appear on the scene. Talon destroys the Sentinel. Talon then states that the Shi’ar Majestor is under his protection.

We cut to a beach on Hala where Crystal is spending some time with Ronan. Crystal feels that some fresh ocean air would help Ronan recuperate from his injuries. Ronan says that it is a testament to the Inhuman Elite forces that the Kree are able to hold their own against the superior Shi’ar military. Crystal says that the Shi’ar have been drained by Vulcan’s aggressive military campaign.

Ronan says that the average Shi’ar warrior fights because he is ordered to do so. On the other hand, the average Kree soldier fights because he remembers what the Shi’ar did to them in their last war. Ronan says that in war he always backs the side that is fighting with spirit.

Crystal says that she views her marriage with Ronan as a bond between two related people: the Inhumans and the Kree. Crystal says that all good marriages depend on honesty. Therefore, Crystal breaks the news to Ronan that the Inhumans’ Uplift Program has failed. Crystal says that she and Ronan should stand together and urge Black Bolt to approach the Uplift Program with a sense of urgency. Otherwise, if Black Bolt waits until after the war is over then it might be too late. And the Kree will have been left behind.

Ronan agrees with Crystal. Ronan then says that it seems like Black Bolt is holding back in this war. That Black Bolt is not taking the most ruthless and decisive actions and, thereby, truly capitalizing on some of the victories in battle that the Kree have had. Crystal responds that Black Bolt wants this war ended with the minimum amount of bloodshed. That Black Bolt is waiting to see if the Starjammers are successful in their mission.

Ronan asks what if the Starjammers fail. Crystal answers that Black Bolt has a contingency plan. However, the Black Bolt has not told anyone what the contingency plan is. Crystal says that whatever the Black Bolt’s plan is it will not be pretty.

We slide over to the Shi’ar throneworld. Gladiator thinks of how he is in awe of the power that Empress Lilandra wields with the people. That the news of Lilandra’s return has sparked uprisings in support of her all over the Shi’ar Empire. Gladiator meets with Councilman D’bek who has always remained loyal to Lilandra.

We see the Starjammers and Lilandra arrive on the scene. The Guardians of the Galaxy went on and returned back to Knowhere. Gladiator and the Starjammers walk Lilandra to the High Council. Chancellor Araki is there discussing the aggressive military policy that Vulcan has ordered. Some of the Councilmen are upset with Vulcan’s approach. That the Shi’ar have sustained heavy losses. That Kree ceded territory has now turned against the Shi’ar. That Lord Ravenous and his people have turned against the Shi’ar.

Araki brushes off the complaints. Suddenly, Lilandra enters the High Council room. The High Council is stunned. The Starjammers and Gladiator quickly take out Araki’s soldiers. Araki yells that this is a coup.

Lilandra responds that this is the restoration of legal authority. Lilandra says that she claims the throne of the Shi’ar Empire by right of her blood sequence. Lilandra says that her first act is to outlaw the usurper Vulcan and end his disastrous war with the Kree. The members of the High Council then cheer in support of Lilandra.

We cut back to Talon talking with Vulcan. Talon explains that he is a part of the Fraternity of Raptors. That they are an ancient order that has a single duty: to protect and direct the Great Purpose. The Great Purpose is the Shi’ar Imperium. That the Raptors were created to keep the Imperium strong and make sure that it lasts forever. Talon says that the Fraternity of Raptors is here to take the Imperium to the next level.

Vulcan spits that he does not need Talon’s help. Talon replies that the Shi’ar’s military is about to break under the current strain of Vulcan’s campaign. That there is open revolt across the Shi’ar Empire. And that Vulcan has made bedfellows out of previously divided enemies.

Vulcan asks what Talon can do for him. Talon replies that the Fraternity of Raptors has struck a pact with King Blastaar of the Negative Zone. Talon says that King Blastaar has used the Cosmic Rod to fashion portals from the Negative Zone to the Kree ceded territory. Talon says that Lord Ravenous’ forces stand no chance against King Blastaar’s army.

Talon then asks how Vulcan plans on dealing with Lilandra’s coup. Vulcan spits that he has no idea what Talon is talking about. Talon says that the High Council is currently demanding Vulcan’s censure. Vulcan goes into a total rage. Talon tells Vulcan to calm himself. Talon says that he would protect Vulcan and that he will.

We hop back to Chandilar, the throneworld of the Shi’ar. We see Gladiator and the Starjammers escorting Lilandra through a huge crowd of people on her way to the Temple of Sharra and K’Ythri in order to consolidate Lilandra’s claim on the throne and renew her oath. Despite Gladiator’s urging to avoid the crowds; Lilandra believes that it is proper that she walk among the people to show them that she has returned and is one of them and is not afraid to walk among them.

The crowd of people is full of both protestors who support Vulcan and people who support Lilandra. Lilandra realizes that she must have misjudged the mood of the people. Gladiator thinks that he is dismayed by the amount of support among the people that Vulcan still possesses. Suddenly, Councilman D’bek is killed. We see that Chancellor Araki’s Death Commandos have appeared on the scene.

Rachel screams that the Death Commandos are the bastards who killed her family. Rachel charges at them in a complete fury. Gladiator and the Starjammers begin brawling with the Death Commandos. Gladiator proceeds to plow down the members of the Death Commandos.

Rachel then senses an assassin in the massive crowd of people. We see Darkhawk momentarily appear, fire a shot, and then disappear. Rachel cries out in horror.

Gladiator then narrates “And that is the moment when the fire goes out.” We see Gladiator holding Lilandra. Lilandra has been shot in the chest. End of issue.

Commentary
The Good: War of Kings #4 was another quality read. DnA deliver a fairly balanced read. This issue is nicely split between action scenes and dramatic scenes. And the dialogue heavy scenes involving Vulcan possess chaotic backdrops with the war raging on around the characters.

And that leads me to one of my favorite aspects of War of Kings: the setting. DnA have created such an expansive setting for this story that gives War of Kings an epic feel. Many big events feel claustrophobic or restrained much like how Secret Invasion came across. Not War of Kings. DnA do their best to give this story a setting as extensive as the universe itself.

DnA are able to achieve this not only by jumping across the universe during each issue, but also with their attention to detail. DnA do not waste a single panel in this story. In each scene in War of Kings #4 there is always something going on in the background. And that helps to give more depth to the story.

Whether it is a battle raging around the characters or a riotous crowd there is always something going on. And this helps to give so much more depth to the story. It also makes the story have a grand feel as we see how this war is impacting the universe outside of the main characters.

From a technical standpoint, War of Kings #4 is masterfully done. The plotting on this title continues to be spectacular. DnA continue to weave into the story so many older plotlines from various different titles. DnA reach all the way back to the “End of Grey” story arc from Uncanny X-Men #466-471 back in 2006 and bring back the Death Commandos who killed Rachel’s family. This was a brilliant move and served as an attack that threw Rachel completely off her game.

This type of plotting also helps to give War of Kings a strong foundation that is rooted in several stories from various titles in the 616 universe. DnA continues to take plotlines from titles like Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, War of Kings: Ascension, Uncanny X-Men, Secret Invasion: Inhumans and Secret Invasion which helps to give War of Kings a wonderfully cohesive feel with plenty of depth and history. This is the type of plotting that all big events should possess; yet rarely do.

Another technical writing skill that DnA flash so impressively is their ability to juggle not only so many plotlines, but also such a massive roster of characters. There are truly very few writers in the industry that could handle the amount of characters that DnA are managing in War of Kings. Almost all comic book writers will admit a downright fear of handling more than six characters in any one story.

DnA have that rare ability to handle a large roster of characters and that is evident in their lack of fear in constructing stories that require so many different characters. In fact, DnA seem to relish in trying to add as many characters into one story as possible.

Talon and the Fraternity of Raptors from War of Kings: Ascension are finally brought into the mix with War of Kings #4. I am curious to see how DnA are going to utilize the Fraternity of Raptors with the finale of this story. Obviously, the addition of the Fraternity of Raptors gives Vulcan’s side a massive power boost. And that is necessary to make up for the loss of the Shi’ar’s heaviest hitter in Gladiator. DnA are wise enough to know that the balance of power has to be even or slightly in the favor of the bad guys if the finale is to be exciting and riveting.

DnA finally introduce the Blastaar plotline from Guardians of the Galaxy #9-10. I was wondering when DnA were going to get around to adding the Blastaar plotline into the War of Kings cocktail. This adds yet another wrinkle to the story as DnA keep adding faction after faction to the war.

Every good war story needs numerous armies and we certainly have that going with War of Kings. On one side we have the Kree, the Inhumans and the Starjammers. On the other side we have the Shi’ar, the Imperial Guard, the Fraternity of Raptors and Blastaar’s army. The Guardians of the Galaxy are the wildcard as they have fought both with the Starjammers and against the Inhumans. And I am sure that Nova will be added to the ranks of the pro-Kree side of the war at some point. The various alliances and warring factions help to give War of Kings that epic feel of a true galaxy spanning war.

DnA whip up plenty of good dialogue and great character work. Normally, those are two aspects of big events that are more often than not completely ignored due to time constraints, the scope of the story, the amount of action and the number of characters involved in the story. Secret Invasion is a good recent example of that. However, DnA buck the trend in this area as all the characters are nicely defined and possess their own distinct personalities and voices.

Some of the best character work has been with Crystal and Ronan. I like how DnA have handled the marriage of these two characters. And their marriage has grown on me. I dig the twist that Crystal is actually forming strong feelings for Ronan. And I like that DnA is taking this opportunity to show the honorable and heroic side of Ronan’s character. Ronan comes across as a passionate warrior who truly wants nothing more than to protect and serve his people.

What I have found particularly interesting is Crystal’s growth since Secret Invasion: Inhumans. DnA have masterfully massaged Crystal’s character into making her arguably the most important Inhuman in War of Kings. Crystal has gone from being completely against leaving Earth and going to kill the remains of the Skrull armada, to then being in agreement with the decision to war with the Shi’ar, to now believing that the number one priority should be the Inhumans’ duty that they owe to the Kree.

Crystal represents hope and compassion amid the terrible war between the Kree and the Shi’ar. The Shi’ar are the obvious “bad guys.” But, DnA have made the Inhumans villainous, though to a much lesser degree than the Shi’ar, with the Inhumans attitude toward the Kree. DnA seem to be positioning Crystal and Ronan as the real protagonists in this story.

It is the various factions, plots, and sub-plots that give War of Kings so many layers. This is exactly why this big event has been such a compelling read. And DnA keep firing the twists and turns at the reader with each issue. War of Kings has been an unpredictable ride. And that continues with the stunning hook ending to War of Kings #4.

I just did not see this ending coming at all. What was so enjoyable was how DnA used the scene with the Shi’ar High Council to lead to this ending. DnA did a great job in tricking the reader into believing that Lilandra would indeed assume the throne and act as the linchpin in overthrowing Vulcan.

But that would be just way too easy for a DnA penned story. Instead, DnA blow the reader away by apparently killing Lilandra at the end of the issue. And having the assassin be the possessed Darkhawk made it even that much more of a juicy hook ending.

Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar combine to deliver a nice looking issue. The artwork isn’t “hot” or anything jaw dropping. But, that is not always necessary. Pelletier and Magyar deliver a quality looking issue that is clean and easy for the reader to follow. Pelletier has a nice eye for detail and is able to pack as much as possible into every panel without ever making them look overcrowded. Pelletier certainly has been able to convey the grand scope of War of Kings.

The Bad: The pacing on War of Kings #4 was a bit too slow. The constant discussing of Vulcan’s military tactics and the impact they have had on the Shi’ar military got old fast. This topic was already addressed in War of Kings #3 and DnA re-hashed it once again in four different scenes in War of Kings #4.

First, with Vulcan and Ka’Ardum. Second, with Ronan and Crystal. Then a third time with Talon and Vulcan. And for a fourth time with Lilandra and the High Council. It was just too much and completely unnecessary. This only served to slow down War of Kings #4. It felt like DnA was trying to fluff up the issue with some filler dialogue in order to stretch out this event.

Overall: War of Kings #4 was another fine installment of this entertaining big event. DnA are putting on an absolute clinic on how to handle a big event that feels properly large in scope and that successfully features a massive roster of characters. There are many writers from both DC and Marvel who could learn a few tricks from DnA when it comes to handling a big event.

If you have missed out on War of Kings, then I strongly recommend that you pick up this title when it comes out in trade format. This is a well crafted story and it is obvious that DnA have placed their heart and soul into creating this event. And DnA’s honest and genuine effort does not go unnoticed or unappreciated by the reader.
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Rokk

2 Comments

  1. Great review. But it's Gladiator, not Guardian, isn't it?

  2. "I just did not see this ending coming at all."

    Cah-mon. Have you NOT read a comic in the last 20 years? ;D

    I'm sure she'll "get better."

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