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February 5, 2010

Touring the Cosmos: War of Kings Character Spotlight

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Written by: mike
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Just before Realm of Kings, there was the War of Kings. A 6 part limited series, the War of Kings saw Dan Abnett and Andy  Lanning pit the Shi’ar and their mighty Imperial Guard against the Kree and their new royal family: the Inhumans. Lives were lost, alliances shattered, and both parties were witness to their great leaders being obliterated in a final showdown. Many characters played their own respective roles, and on our first installment of Touring the Cosmos, we will be looking at the main characters involved, and where they are now.

Before we start, I have to mention that I know there were other players involved. Tie-ins in Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy, and a mini-series titled Darkhawk: Ascension. Characters like Nova, Ravenous, Blaastar and Darkhawk were spotlighted in these books, but were not integral to the main story. This is why they were left out. Now let’s get started!!

Starjammers: The most current incarnation of The Starjammers are a bit different from what we have known since they first appeared. They are a mix of the old and the new, consisting of Ch’od, Raza, Polaris, Rachel Summers, Korvus, Lilandra, and are lead by Havok. During the war, The Starjammers are attempting to aid Lilandra in regaining the throne. Early on, they lose Lilandra to a surprise attack by the Imperial Guard at Crystal and Ronan’s wedding.  The Starjammers take a side in the fight, fighting for the Inhumans and Kree, and try to free the former leader of the Shi’ar. As the story continues, The Starjammers are shown fighting against the hordes of Vulcan supporters. Although they fought on the winning side, they lost Lilandra, something they will never forget.

The whole motivation behind The Starjammers is revenge and honor. Vulcan, the Shi’ar leader, killed Corsair who was the former leader of The Starjammers. This did not sit well with their members. Corsair was Havok and Vulcan’s father, and a close friend to Raza and Ch’od. The Starjammers main directive under leadership by Havok, is to unseat the tyrant Vulcan and bring an end to his reign. Once this was done, what do we see in the future for this rag-tag group?

Currently, they are aiding the Imperial Guard in an uneasy alliance. The Fault, which is a rip in time and space after the detonation of the T-bomb at the end of War of Kings, leads to unknown universes. The Starjammers, along with a select crew of Imperial Guard, are exploring The Fault, figuring out what it is, where it leads, and what effects it will have on the rest of the universe.

Lilandra: Lilandra Neramani is one of the key players in this war. She was ousted from leadership of the Shi’ar by D’Ken and Vulcan, and has tried to reclaim her throne ever since. She recognizes Vulcan for the evil tyrant he is, and only wants to free her people. She enlists Havok and The Starjammers to her cause, because they have similar feelings about Vulcan. Dying at the hands of a secret assailant midway through the war, her death only helped her cause. She was seen as a martyr, and this bolstered the energy within her followers.

Lilandra, although without superpowers, was a supreme strategist and great leader. She earned the loyalty from most of her people, from the most basic worker, to the former Praetor of the Imperial Guard. This was her most respected gift.  Her legacy will be remembered throughout the annals of Shi’ar history, as an inspiring leader and gifted tactician.

Gladiator: The powerhouse of the war was Gladiator. Both sides vied for his allegiance, because he is as powerful as the leaders of Kree and Shi’ar alike. Gladiator is a devout warrior for the kingdom of the Shi’ar, with loyalty that is unwavering, and allegiances standing with whomever wears the crown. He starts the war by Vulcan’s side, while his loyalty is continually tested by the evil leader. Vulcan uses Gladiator and the Imperial Guard to strike at the Inhumans, and capture Lilandra. The biggest test for Gladiator is when Vulcan orders him to kill Lilandra. Here is the turning point for Gladiator, when he decides where his true allegiances lie. To serve Vulcan, a tyrannical murderer, or Lilandra Neramani, a peace-monger, who has always kept Gladiator on the path of justice.

Gladiator’s true power lies in his confidence. When he has no doubts about his path or who he is, he is psionically enhanced in strength and power. The struggle to be loyal to the Shi’ar crown under the reign of Vulcan kept his strength levels in check. This may be why he wasn’t able to save Lilandra, or be the deciding factor in the war.

The future for Gladiator is blanketed in confusion. He was proclaimed the Majestor, the ultimate ruler, of the Shi’ar by its people. He took the role only to provide order and stability, but is uncomfortable. He prefers to be on the front lines of battle, believing this to be his true station in life. His leadership and choices are continually tested, the Shi’ar aristocracy is beginning to notice his unease on the throne, and questions are beginning to form about whether or not Gladiator is fit to rule or follow. Will Gladiator give the throne to a better leader? Will he be ousted by the same people who elected him into power?

Imperial Guard: The Imperial Guard are the elite fighting force of the Shi’ar Empire. They are lead by a Praetor, and directed by the Shi’ar Majestor/Majestrix. In the War of Kings, Praetor Gladiator leads the Imperial Guard into battle, as directed by Vulcan. Many of Vulcan’s request and missions are merciless, like attacking the Kree and Inhumans during Crystal and Ronan’s wedding, the act that begins the war. Although Gladiator internally questions these requests, he and the Imperial Guard carry them out flawlessly. But loyalty can sometimes have its limits. After coming face to face with Lilandra, with orders to kill her, Gladiator changes allegiance, and abandons his post as long-time Praetor of the Imperial Guard. He kills member Smasher, and fights by Lilandra’s side for the rest of the war.

Gladiator has left his post as Praetor of the Imperial Guard, and Mentor has become the new leader. With Vulcan gone as Majestor of the Shi’ar and Gladiator being elected into that role, the new Imperial Guard has been split among its ranks. There are those that support Gladiator in his new role, and those that believe he has not earned his position. The newly created rip in the fabric of space, called The Fault, has diverted the Imperial Guard’s attention from the matter of leadership for the time being, as they are thrust into an alliance with The Starjammers to explore The Fault.

The Imperial Guard is comprised of super powered fighters from different planets from around the galaxy. They promote unwavering leadership to the crown, but this may sometimes be their weakness. When a leader is put into power, not all of the Guard may be accepting of the new Majestor/Majestrix. When the mission into The Fault is done, will the Imperial Guard continue squabbling about leadership? Will it be split into two camps, dividing what is arguable the most elite fighting force in the galaxy? Will Mentor be strong enough to hold it all together?

Vulcan: Vulcan was the main engine behind the death and destruction in War of Kings. He is the son of Corsair, and from birth, has witnessed death, betrayal and strength in power all around him. Just before the War of Kings, he killed his way to the crown of the Shi’ar. He slew D’Ken to claim the throne, and has caused havoc ever since. His rash decision to attack the Kree and Inhumans at Crystal and Ronan’s wedding was the catalyst behind the war, but it started with his aggressive seizing of many planets, in a quest to expand the Shi’ar Empire.

Throughout the war, Vulcan continuously acts on impulse. He has a “crush all who oppose me” attitude, and in some cases it does not serve him well. Although he allowed the Shi’ar to expand like he intended, he does not always gain the loyalty of his people because he pushes them too hard and spreads them too thin. This may be because in human years, he is extremely young, barely in his twenties. Vulcan, having orchestrated the death of Lilandra, forces the Inhumans to play their hand, by unleashing the Terrigen Bomb. Dubbed the “T-bomb”, it has the power to force evolution with all who are exposed to it.

Vulcan ends the war in a titanic battle with Black Bolt, leader of the Inhumans. Both were engaged in battle on the T-bomb. Vulcan proves his powers are those of an Omega-level mutant by regenerating and continuing in battle against Black Bolt, after having been hit by one of Black Bolt’s destructive voice blasts. Vulcan perishes with Black Bolt in the detonation of the T-bomb, leaving an entire Shi’ar nation in shambles. However, many can now sleep in peace knowing the tyrant Vulcan has been destroyed. The question remains though; will Vulcan’s Omega-level mutant power give him the chance to regenerate his body, and continue to plague the universe?

Inhumans: This race of human genetic offshoots provides the readers with some interesting philosophical debates. At first, the Inhumans declare themselves the leader of the Kree. They demand Ronan cede his leadership to them, because in fact, the Kree created them and they should be the rightful leaders. Ronan sees this as a good thing, appreciating the fact that the Inhumans are finally playing the role the Kree created for them. When the war begins, the Inhumans are holding a ceremonial wedding for Ronan and Crystal, in order to finalize the bond between Inhuman and Kree. Most are in favor of the wedding, hoping that the Inhumans will help the Kree evolve.

When Vulcan and the Imperial Guard launch a surprise attack on the Inhumans, they quickly jump into fighting mode. They are in constant battle with the Shi’ar throughout the war, but the key Inhumans deal with the war in different ways. Black Bolt and Medusa are the king and queen of the Inhumans. They are offended by the Shi’ar strike, and refuse to be victim. Soon they unveil their Inhuman Elite, and send Triton, Black Bolt’s cousin, to lead the offensive. Gorgon and Karnak play minor roles,  serving as lieutenants to Black Bolt, and following his every command. Crystal is the Inhuman that believes war and bloodshed is not the path to follow, and constantly defies the decisions that Black Bolt and Medusa make.

In the end, Black Bolt and Medusa make the ultimate decision in ending the conflict. They release the T-bomb created by Maximus, Black Bolt’s eccentric brother. This is where the dilemma sets in. This bomb is meant to transform all of the beings in the universe by way of Terrigen Mist, and obliterate the Shi’ar front. Beings all over will be forced to transform against their will. What most of the Inhumans dont realize is that the detonation of this bomb requires Black Bolt’s presence, and essentially death. In a final confrontation with Vulcan, Black Bolt detonates the bomb, but not before Crystal was able to defuse the Terrigen effects.

The story of the Inhumans is somewhat tragic. They were born through experiments, and have only seen war when trying to obtain peace. They have only recently decided to take an aggressive role in deciding their own fate, and this ultimately led to war. An underestimated force in the universe, they will continue to lead the Kree into a brighter future. Will Crystal and Ronan develop a relationship beyond obligation? With Medusa at the helm, will the Inhumans be able to stand the rigors of leading a war-like nation like the Kree? Will Black Bolt ever return?

Talon: A newly created character, Talon is part of The Fraternity of Raptors. This fraternity is millenia-old, having been tasked with protecting the universe. In War of Kings, Talon appears midway through the war unto Vulcan, explaining to him that he is their to protect the Shi’ar ruler. Although Talon’s motives may seem virtuous at first, we soon learn that Talon also tells Vulcan that he is only on the throne because Talon allows him, and as soon as he disobeys him, Talon will find a new leader for the Shi’ar. After explaining this, Talon fly’s into space. He then appears on Chandilar, where Lilandra is trying to reclaim her people. Melding into the crowd, Talon shoots and kills Lilandra.

Talon has made his motives and intents ambiguous. With Darkhawk, who is a fellow fraternity member, he claims that they are tasked with keeping order and protecting the universe. These claims are hard to believe through his actions. For example, Talon was the one who gave Blaastar the Cosmic Control Rod, and one of the Fraternity members ultimately killed Lilandra. Talon also claimed to Vulcan that his mission is to protect the throne of the Shi’ar and help them develop to the next level.

What The Fraternity of Raptors is all about remains to be seen. Whether their intentions are pure or not is questionable, but it remains true that they are a force to be reckoned with. Will Talon continue to do service in the name 0f The Fraternity of Raptors, no matter the consequence? Who is Talon’s next target? Is this someone that can be trusted?

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Guardians of the Galaxy play a small role in War of Kings.  Most of their interaction in the war was based in their own self-titled ongoing title, but they did make a brief appearance midway through the war. The main goal of the Guardians was to stop the war, and when they realized their efforts were futile, they chose to aid the Inhumans in stopping Vulcan and the Imperial Guard.

Initially Starhawk, a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy from the future, came back in time to warn the Guardians of an event that would have dire effects on the landscape of the universe for years to come. This “event” would put reality at stake, and would cause many fluctuations in the time stream. As the war drew closer, the Guardians saw this battle as the spark that would lead to Starhawk’s prophesized event. The Guardians split into two teams, one led by Star-lord and the other by Rocket Raccoon, to plead their case to Black Bolt and Vulcan, to end the war. This plan didn’t work, so the Guardians resorted to choosing the most righteous side, and fighting alongside them.

Having failed in stopping Starhawk’s prophecy, The Fault was born. It came to be with the explosion of the T-bomb, and was the reason for Starhawk coming to the past. The Fault is a look into other universes, with limitless ends. Beings can pass through, and most have evil intentions. The Guardians have made it their task to explore The Fault, and close it any way they can.  Will the Guardians live up to their name, and protect the galaxy? What does The Fault have in store for our heroes? Who will die next?

There you have it, a re-cap of the major players in War of Kings. Abnett and Lanning have set the landscape for the future of Marvel’s cosmic universe. New leaders reign true, but will courage and vision be enough to stand the rigors of time?

Michael Parente



  1. I loved this series and it had been a while since I had picked up a book that dealt with Marvel’s cosmic side. However I’m a fan of the Inhumans, Starjammers, and the Imperial Guard so this was a no brainer for me and I think it was about time Gladiator evolved to something more than the galaxy’s powerhouse and we got to see a lot more of his character in RoK and WoK!

    Great write up!

  2. Appreciate it 🙂

    I think Abnett and Lanning have done a great job of taking these characters who have a fan base, maybe not large enough to hold an on-going, and put them into a larger story to showcase them all.

    They have given dimension to characters who have seemed one dimensional for so long. I love these two writers in this corner of the Marvel Cosmos.

  3. Eli

    Great job Mike! I love this series, and the spotlight on the cosmic goings on. Marvel’s cosmic stuff is going along pretty good now, what with Annihilation, WoK, and RoK. I wouldn’t have minded a clear winner in the Black Bolt/Vulcan battle, but I’m sure it’ll be interesting whenever they resurface.

  4. Thanks

    I wonder if they are going to resurface though?? They have been using alternate versions of Black Bolt, but Vulcan I haven’t seen at all.

    I have a feeling they will have Vulcan regenerate

  5. Billy

    Great stuff CA! Looking forward to seeing more.

  6. Wow Mike, this was a great write-up! I thought War of Kings was a great read, but Realm of Kings has been “meh” so far. I want to know the answer to one question: What the hell happened to the Starjammers!? In Realm of Kings: Imperial Guard they only consist of Ch’od and Raza…where’s everyone else?

  7. TBH they haven’t shown whats happened to them. I have a bit of a feeling that with “Second Coming”, Havok, Polaris, Rachel, and Korvus will be spending some time on Earth.

  8. […] can compare to common heroic adventures and modern heroic tales. Now that we are all caught up with War of Kings and Blackest Night, Touring the Cosmos will next focus on book reviews and character descriptions […]

  9. […] out of Marvel in the past couple of years then you are definitely missing out! From Annihilation to War of Kings to the current ass kicking Thanos Imperative Marvel is definitely making a statement with this […]

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