In "War of Kings" #1, Vulcan, ruler of the Shi'Ar Empire, ignited the Marvel Universe's latest and perhaps greatest cosmic war by launching a surprise attack on the Kree and their Inhuman rulers. On sale now, "War of Kings" #2 saw the Inhuman/Kree king, Black Bolt, react to that attack by going on the offensive. He deployed some of his empire's own forces, but also made use of a group that has no direct allegiance to his people's cause, the Starjammers.
For the past several weeks, CBR has been examining how the war might ply out by closely examining the forces at the disposal Vulcan, ruler of the Shi'Ar, and Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans. In our penultimate installment of ALL THE KINGS' MEN, writers Dan Abnett and And Lanning, -- collectively known to their fans as DnA -- help us identify the white pawns; characters with no ties to Black Bolt but who nevertheless find themselves fighting on his side in the cosmic chess game that is "War of Kings."
WHITE PAWN: HAVOK
Alex Summers and his fellow Starjammers have been waging a guerrilla war campaign against Vulcan ever since the "Uncanny X-Men" storyline "The Rise and Fall of the Shi'Ar Empire," where the Earth mutant also known as Havok took control of the intergalactic empire. The fact that Vulcan is also Havok's brother and that he murdered their father Corsair, the former leader of the Starjammers, makes Havok's crusade against Vulcan quite personal.
"Black Bolt probably considers Havok a maverick, but a useful and well-informed one," DnA told CBR News. "For Black Bolt, Havok is absolutely a pawn - a vital pawn - in this game. Karnak, with his huge insight, has undoubtedly advised Black Bolt on the best way to use or deploy Havok as a weapon and an advantage. And he's probably explained the risks too."
In "War of Kings" #2, readers saw Havok and his team working side by side with Inhuman forces on a joint operation, but it's probable that in future operations against the Shi'Ar, the Starjammers will serve as Inhuman-backed insurgents. "Havok and the Starjammers represent the most viable and potential 'back channel' or 'black ops' way of--well, if not winning the war then at least putting Vulcan on the back foot," DnA remarked. "Black Bolt may risk it, but only so far."
WHITE PAWN: MARVEL GIRL
As Marvel Girl, Rachel Grey wielded the immense power of the Phoenix force, but in "X-Men: Kingbreaker" #4, she mysteriously lost her access to that power. Despite this loss, the Inhumans still see the Starjammer and former Phoenix as a valuable asset against the Shi'Ar.
"She still has her telekinetic and telepathic powers, so she's certainly tough, determined and very useful," DnA explained. "Right now, she's very much in with Havok, though as part of that long shot, big risk play. We mustn't forget that she has a real thing with the Shi'Ar. In 'End of Greys' [an 'Uncanny X-Men' storyline from 2006], the Shi'Ar Death Commandos massacred her entire family."
WHITE PAWN: POLARIS
Polaris's original mutant ability was that of magnetism. She could use this power to control and manipulate metals, as well as fly and create force fields. Polaris lost that ability on M-Day, when the Scarlet Witch's reality-warping ability depowered most of the Marvel U's mutants. But recently, the villainous Apocalypse infused Polaris' body with technology that not only returned those magnetic abilities to her, but also apparently made them more powerful and much harder to control.
No doubt, Polaris one of the most powerful members of the Starjammers, but what the Inhuman Royal Family find most valuable about her is her familial connection to them. Polaris's brother Quicksilver was once married to Crystal, and together they produced an offspring, Polaris's niece Luna.
"We had fun playing with this lineage/dynastic/bloodline thing," DnA said. "Lorna's link to Crystal and Luna is the first reason the Inhumans take the 'jammers seriously. She's like a rogue princess, an exiled countess."
WHITE PAWN: CH'OD
As a founding member of the original Starjammers, the gentle reptilian giant Ch'Od has been fighting the Shi'Ar for some time. His superhuman strength, durability and combat skills make a fierce opponent in a close up fight, and he's even more dangerous when he's piloting a starship.
In "War of Kings" #1, Ch'Od found a very personal reason to put those skills to good use. He was protecting deposed Shi'Ar ruler Lilandra Neramani when a member of the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard ambushed him, kidnapped Lilandra, and teleported away. The surprise attack left Ch'Od wounded, guilt ridden, and angry.
"He's out for payback," DnA confirmed. "He lost his arm too. He's never needed a reason to kick Shi'Ar butt."
WHITE PAWN: RAZA
Like Ch'Od, the cyborg Raza Longknife was one of the founding members of the Starjammers. His robotic parts greatly increased Raza's effectiveness in physical combat as well as enhanced his senses. His initial grudge against the Shi'Ar came about when their former emperor, D'Ken, slaughtered Raza's race of people, but Vulcan became the focus of Raza's rage after he murdered Raza's friend Corsair.
In the recent "X-Men: Kingbreaker" miniseries, Raza was infected and became reluctant host to an alien symbiote that appears to be of the same race as the Spider-Man villain known as Venom. The miniseries ended with the symbiote, a member of the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard, dominating Raza's mind. But the Starjammer's will is far from broken, and his teammates are determined to rescue him from this fate.
WHITE PAWN: KORVUS
Korvus Rook'Shir is the last in the long line of Shi'Ar capable of wielding a powerful sword known as the Phoenix blade. The weapon was said to contain a fragment of the Phoenix Force itself, its wielder could do things like fly and fire immensely powerful energy blasts.
But in "War of Kings" #4, the Phoenix Force departed Korvus's blade at the same time it abandoned Marvel Girl. This seemingly makes the outlaw Shi'Ar Starjammer just "a guy with a sword," but a very resourceful and determined one at that.
"He's kind of like a Robin Hood figure to us," DnA remarked. "A Shi'Ar Robin Hood, the rough-cut but noble outlaw fighting for an honorable cause."
WHITE PAWN: WENDELL VAUGHN
Wendell Vaughn is no stranger to intergalactic conflict. In his former role as Quasar, he wielded the powerful Quantum Bands and worked as Protector of the Universe for the cosmic entity known as Eon. Vaughn's duties as Protector lead to his involvement in the first Annihilation war and his face-to-face confrontation with the villain behind it, Annihilus. It was a confrontation that seemingly lead to his death.
Vaughn didn't die, though, and in a recent issue of "Nova" it was revealed that he lives on as a being of pure energy; with his full powers and capabilities yet to be revealed.
"He's potentially as powerful as ever," DnA stated. "Possibly more powerful."
DnA also had to be vague about what role Vaughn plays in "War of Kings" and why he's on Black Bolt's side of the board. "We have to keep quite close about this, because Wendell's 'War of Kings' storyline winds in and out of 'Guardians' and 'Nova', and has some major things in it. He's a good guy, and he'll fight to end a war. That's all you need to know."
WHITE PAWN: NOVA
As Nova, Richard Rider was a major player in the first two Annihilation Wars, which won him some allies among the Kree Empire. Now that the Cosmos are once again ablaze with interstellar war, it's a safe bet that Rider, one of the galaxy's top space cops, will find himself embroiled in "War of Kings" as well. The big question, though, is how will Nova insert himself into the war? And what role will he play?
In recent issues of "Nova," Rider had a falling out with the sentient computer known as the Worldmind of Xandar, which lead to the computer stripping Nova of his powers and leaving him with a terminal illness. And in "Nova" #23, in stores now, Rider's ally Wendell Vaughn sought to cure his condition by giving Rider the Quantum Bands, which transformed Rider into the new Quasar, Protector of the Universe.
"The next few issues are going to shake the Nova thread up a lot, several times," DnA teased. "But he's a hero, a peacekeeper, a lawbringer, a soldier, a leader-- he ended the first Annihilation war, he facilitated the winning of the Phalanx invasion, and he is not just going to sit on the sidelines for this one."