With "War of Kings" #1 on sale now, the Marvel Universe is once again ablaze in the fires of interstellar war. Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning with art by Paul Pelletier, "War of Kings" is not just a personal contest between the titular monarchs, Black Bolt and Vulcan, but also a clash between Marvel's last two great intergalactic cultures: Vulcan's Shi'ar Empire and Black Bolt's subjects, which now include both the Kree and the Inhumans.
Black Bolt and Vulcan both have access to a myriad of high tech weapons and vehicles, but what's really going to win the War of Kings are the allies each monarch has at his disposal. In previous installments of ALL THE KINGS' MEN, "War of Kings" writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning -- collectively known to their fans as DnA -- helped us understand the roles and importance of these characters by imagining them as pieces on a chessboard. We've identified the Kings, Queens and the Bishops, and in this week's edition, DnA are back to reveal the Knights of the cosmic chess game that is War of Kings.
WHITE KNIGHT: MAXIMUS
For years, Black Bolt fought the twisted schemes of his insane younger brother Maximus, who sought to steal his brother's crown. The Inhuman king routinely defeated his brother in this endless war, but when the time came for Black Bolt to take a more active role in intergalactic affairs, he tried a new tactic. Instead of shunning or imprisoning his brother, Black Bolt welcomed Maximus to his new cause.
The strategy seems to be working. Maximus is still mentally unstable, but he appears blissfully happy to finally be embraced as a member of the Royal Family of the Inhumans. "He's working with the Royal Family, he's part of the process, and they (especially Black Bolt) are both recognizing and using his talents and devices," DnA told CBR News.
Maximus's bility to control the minds of others is a useful one to have during wartime, but it's his genius level intellect that is proving to be most valuable to the Kree and Inhuman war machine. "We've already established he's their master scientist, their weapons designer and inventor," DnA explained. "The Inhumans are going to war inspired by Black Bolt but armed by Maximus."
While he may finally be a functioning and valuable member of Inhuman society, Maximus is wrestling with his own demons, and his penchant for psychotic behavior isn't his only weakness. "His ambition and single-mindedness are also a factor as is, ironically, his loyalty," DnA said. "Is it possible to be too loyal?"
WHITE KNIGHT: KARNAK
The Inhumans were designed by the Kree to be a race of living weapons. The most dangerous is Karnak, who is an expert in several forms of unarmed combat and possesses an extrasensory ability to perceive stress points, fracture planes, and weaknesses in objects and living things. This ability has allowed Karnak to shatter steel with his bare hands and render even the toughest opponents unconscious with a simple strike. This ability has also made Karnak one of Black Bolt's most trusted martial advisors; a role that he'll continue to play in the coming conflict with the Shi'Ar.
"Karnak is definitely the master planner and strategist for all Inhuman operations," DnA stated. "He's no mean thing on the battlefield either."
When it comes to sensing weaknesses, Karnak's talents involve looking outward and not inward, something that could be very dangerous when battling a canny and deceitful opponent like Vulcan. "Everyone's got a blind spot, and Karnak's might be himself," DnA said.
BLACK KNIGHT: MENTOR
He may not be as physically powerful as some of the other members of the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard, but Mentor's computer-like brain makes him one of the most formidable members of the team, especially when it comes to fighting large-scale conflicts like a cosmic war. "We want to show Mentor as being terrifyingly able, and one of the most dangerous and capable members of the Imperial Guard," DnA said. "His astonishing brainpower is enhanced (in military terms) by sheer, analytical ruthlessness."
The Imperial Guard's master tactician does have a weakness, of course. "Mentor can 'read through' even deliberately illogical tactics," DnA said, meaning opponents could not employ a seemingly senseless strategy to confuse Mentor, for he would recognize that as a form of strategy. "However, he is still a calculating engine, and perhaps lacks that spark of insight, that imagination that makes Karnak so dangerous."
BLACK KNIGHT: ORACLE
In ancient Earth cultures, Oracles were seers and employed by rulers for their wisdom and advice. In the Shi'Ar empire, the character of Oracle plays just such a role in the Imperial Guard. In the recent "X-Men: Kingbreaker" #2, Vulcan sought out Oracle's counsel and then ignored it, something she took offense to. But readers shouldn't mistake her difference of opinion with Vulcan as any sign of disloyalty. "The Guard serves the office, not the holder of the office," DnA said. "Kallark [a.k.a. Gladiator] has turned the Imperial Guard into the most potent fighting cadre in the galaxy. It's stronger and more resolute than it's ever been."
Her sage advice aside, Oracle's telepathic abilities make her hugely valuable to the Imperial Guard and the Shi'Ar war machine. "She's pretty damn powerful," DnA said. "She can best serve the Shi'Ar by reading and predicting the more mercurial tactics of the Inhumans, and also by detecting and excluding any interfering parties, such as the Guardians of the Galaxy with their powerful teepers such as Mantis and Cosmo."
Indeed, it would be in Oracle's best interest to detect and nullify any telepaths working for the Kree and Inhumans. DnA agreed, "The biggest weakness of any teeper is a more powerful teeper."
"War of Kings" #1 is on sale now from Marvel Comics.