World Wars I and II saw combat unlike anything before in human history. But imagine if the scope of those conflicts carried over to not just an interplanetary scale, but an intergalactic one. Add in high technology like massive space ships and world cracking bombs and you have a war capable of wiping out billions and billions of people. Such a conflagration is currently raging in the Marvel Universe.
The conflict is playing out in Marvel's "War of Kings" miniseries and involves the forces of the Inhuman and Kree King Black Bolt and the mad Shi'Ar emperor Vulcan. The clash of these two great intergalactic powers has dragged others into their conflict, like the cast of "Guardians of the Galaxy," "Nova," and Darkhawk, who stars in the miniseries "War of Kings: Ascension." All these series are written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, collectively known to their fansas DnA.
With "War of Kings" #4 in stores now, the cosmic conflict is more than half over so CBR News spoke with DnA about their plans for "War of Kings" and it's three major tie-in series.
While Vulcan's psychopathic penchant for violence has been well documented in "War of Kings" and its various tie-ins, Black Bolt and the Inhumans aren't meant to be seen as the heroes of the story either. "We wanted to tell a truly epic cosmic story with two classic galactic Empires at it's heart," DnA told CBR News. "Obviously, within all conflicts there are two sides to every story, so creating a sense of moral ambiguity within both sides gave us the most opportunity to tell dramatic and compelling stories for all the characters involved, whatever side they are on as there is no clear right or wrong to the conflict and both sides have taken dubious steps in their efforts to win."
Indeed, in "War of Kings," Black Bolt & Co. have done several morally questionable things, like lie to and exploit their Kree subjects to advance their goals.
For his part, Vulcan's insanity and the sinister machinations of some of his followers like Chancellor Araki will remind some readers of Hitler's Third Reich, but DnA drew inspiration for "War of Kings" from a variety of sources. "I guess we were channeling some 900 years of monarchy here in England when portraying the Inhuman Royal family and its political, personal and courtly intrigues, so we have direct experience of being benevolently ruled by an royal house," the writers explained. "But in reality, we were heavily influenced by the classic, 'I Claudius' (which chronicles the machinations, conflicts and plots of the Caesars of the Roman Empire from Augustus to Claudius) as well as the sci-fi tour de force, 'Dune,' both of which offer a 101 course in world building and character intrigues."
"War of Kings" hasn't just been about the huge clash of great powers. Through their depictions of characters like Gladiator of the Shi'Ar and Crystal of the Inhumans, DnA have also worked hard to give readers a sense of how intergalactic war can affect individuals. "It's easy to get lost in the scale of events that take place on a galactic level, so we decide to employ the same device we used on 'Annihilation: Conquest', and tell the story through from the POV of a single character," DnA said. "Because we're dealing with two conflicting Empires, we chose to focus on a character from each side, Gladiator and Crystal. This way we get to see the effects of the conflict from a personal level as well as appreciating the truly vast nature of a cosmic war. It also offered us the chance to develop and explore these two classic Marvel characters and reveal why they are compelling heroes with long and rich histories."
The final pages of "War of Kings" #4 saw the first major casualty of the conflict. Former Shi'Ar Empress Lilandra Neramani attempted a coup against against Vulcan's rule on the Shi'Ar home world of Chandilar. The attempt ended with her death. "The immediate effect of Lilandra's assassination is open revolt across Chandilar as pro-Neramani supporters clash openly with the Emperor's guards. This could prove costly to Vulcan, who has already stretched his forces to breaking point prosecuting his war against the Inhuman/Kree Empire," DnA explained. "It will certainly anger him that things are unraveling on the Shi'Ar home world, and when Vulcan gets angry, things tend to get destroyed.
"Another pivotal effect her death will have is on Black Bolt's course of action. Up until now, he has restrained his forces in an attempt to cause minimum casualties on both sides whilst he awaited the outcome of Lilandra's power play. With it's tragic failure, he will be forced to engage the Inhuman/Kree forces fully in action against the Shi'Ar and he has a final, decisive plan that will effect the outcome of the war that he must now implement or risk a prolonged war of attrition with Vulcan."
Lilandra's murderer was none other than Darkhawk, but the former Earth-based hero was literally out of his mind when he assassinated her. In the opening issues of the "War of Kings: Ascension" miniseries, Talon, an armored being like Darkhawk, tricked the hero into accompanying him into the Negative Zone. While there, Talon surprised Darkhawk by waking up another consciousness that had been laying dormant in the back of Chris Powell's mind since he first assumed the armored form of Darkhawk.
Talon and the being now in control of Darkhawk are the last agents of the Fraternity of Raptors. In "War of Kings" #4, the Fraternity's purpose was revealed to be the protection and expansion of the Shi'Ar Empire. "As a centuries old ranking member of the Fraternity of Raptors, an ancient order that hasn't been active for nearly 60 centuries, Talon's abilities and goals are, as yet, unclear," DnA stated. "But you don't get to be part of a centuries old ancient order that once guided the fate the universe unless you're supremely capable, acute and deadly!!"
"War of Kings: Ascension" #3 (of 5) is in stores June 17, and the events of the issue run parallel with those of "War of Kings #4. "Chris Powell learns more about the true purpose of the Fraternity of Raptors and his own unique role in the unfolding events," DnA said. "By the end of 'Ascension,' things will have alternated irrevocably for Chris and will open a new chapter in the adventures of Darkhawk going forward."
The current events in "Nova" have also been running parallel to the events of "War of Kings," but in a different sector of the conflict. "The cool thing about waging a galactic sized war is that you can have events unfold on different planets that seem to have no relation to each other but, when you sit back and look at the bigger picture, you see how they interweave and connect," DnA said. "This has been the benefit for us writing the entire event: we are very aware of where each issue fits into the larger picture of the 'War Of Kings' as a whole as well as detailing that particular issue's story in relation to it's characters. Nova's story in 'WoK' is very personal as it has dealt with the resurgence of the Nova Corps and the restoration of the WorldMind [a supercomputer that serves as Nova's advisor] and now moves into the rescue mission for Robbie Ryder [Nova's brother] all set against the larger landscape of the 'War of Kings'. Though Nova's story arc doesn't impact on the main storyline of 'WoK', the events of 'WoK' have shaped the way things have unfolded in Nova. We think this is one of the best ways of using a crossover 'event' to propel events within a character's title."
In "Nova" #25, Richard Rider restored the WorldMind from his possession by the insane cosmic being known as Ego the Living Planet, and regained his title of Nova Prime and leader of Nova Corps, an army of recently reinstated super powered peacekeepers. "Rich has never been comfortable with this carelessly expedient formation of the Corps and his concerns have been proven as the untrained and fledgling recruits have been little more than cannon fodder in the conflict so far," DnA said. "Richard's responsibility and duty as the Nova Prime is to protect these recruits and do whatever is necessary to keep more of them from being killed."
Robbie Ryder was one of the recruits the possessed WorldMind inducted into the Nova Corps, and issues #26-28 of "Nova" find Richard Ryder embarking on a personal quest to find and save his brother, who went missing in the early stage of the "War of Kings." "Richard's rescue mission takes him to Nil-Rast where he encounters the inhuman Elite and eventually to Kree Lar, where he is embroiled in the battle between the forces of Ravenous and Blastaar [Two rival rulers from the Negative Zone], neither of whom have any love loss for Richard," DnA revealed. "All of this in search of his brother, who is presumed dead, something Richard is not prepared to accept."
When the "War of Kings" broke out, Peter Quill a.k.a. Star-Lord felt it was the duty of his team, the Guardians of Galaxy, to put an end to the conflict. His plan involved splitting his team into two groups and sending one to talk to the Inhumans and the other to talk to the Shi'Ar. The effort was met with mixed results. "The Guardians have unwittingly, but quite typically for them, found themselves antagonizing two of the universe's most aggressive military Empires in the middle of a cosmic scale conflict between them," DnA explained. "Though their ultimate goal is to protect the fabric of the universe and the space/time continuum from further damage such a war could cause, their immediate aim is to get out of the crossfire! The stakes couldn't be higher, just life, the universe and everything!"
The Guardians team that went to the Shi'Ar helped free Lilandra Neramani, who had been imprisoned by Emperor Vulcan's forces. When they return to their headquarters in "Guardians" #15, on sale June 24, they'll find a big surprise: their teammates under attack by both the Inhuman Royal Family and the forces of the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard!
"Guardians" #15 takes place just after the events of "War of Kings" #4, and will have more impact on the overall storyline than the events of "Nova." "Protecting the universe from just this type of cosmic threat is the Guardians remit after all, but we've designed the main book of 'WoK to be stand alone, and 'Guardians' to read as a companion piece that will enhance the story but is not required reading," DnA said. "Likewise, if you're reading 'Guardians,' you don't need to read 'WoK' to understand the story; just that the events are set against the background of a galactic war. One thing we will say, though, is if you are reading 'WoK,' you will not want to miss 'Guardians' #17!"
Telling a mammoth tale over four titles has given Abnett and Lanning the opportunity to work with several different artists, and the writing duo couldn't be prouder of the work being produced by their "War of Kings" collaborators. "We're totally in awe at what everyone's bringing to the books art-wise, from pencils, inks and colors, everyone is doing their best work to date and it keeps getting better with each issue. We are totally enthused when pages arrive, it's a conveyor belt of classic comic art: Paul Pelletier ["War of Kings"] will send in an awesome page of Inhumans action, then Brad Walker produces a fantastic Guardians cosmic battle sequence, we'll get a batch of stunning Andrea Devito Nova pages and, just as we're catching our breath, Wellinton Alves ["War of Kings: Ascension"] sends out a killer shot of Darkhawk that has us whooping! And the whole thing starts again when the pages are inked and colored, it's a constant barrage of wonderful art, our eyes are very happy!"
The "War of Kings" has been raging since the beginning of the year, and the next two months sees the release of issues #5-6, which bring the conflict to an end. DnA promise the finale will be an epic one. "Without giving away any surprises and shocks we've got in store, what we can say is that things build to a stunning conclusion through issue #5 and 6 as the inevitable showdown between Black Bolt and Vulcan explodes and the fate of the two intergalactic civilizations teeter on the brink," the writers said. "The outcome of this conflict will change the landscape of the Marvel Cosmic Universe for the future as you will see for yourself just how mad Vulcan can get, how ruthless Black Bolt is prepared to be and how very much worse things can get for the universe!"