War of Kings #1

In recent years, Marvel has carved out a very strong series of cosmic titles, starting with a rebirth of sorts in "Annihilation" all the way through Ed Brubaker's space storyline in "Uncanny X-Men," which brought Havok and Polaris (among others) into space, and then another "Annihilation." All these titles and storylines have led to this point: two definitive kingdoms in the galaxy, The Inhumans and The Kree, versus Vulcan (Cyclops and Havok's long lost brother) and the Shi'ar. In the wake of Secret Invasion, the Shi'ar are trying to pick up what the decimated Skrulls have left behind.

This keystone series (which will be crossed over in the coming months with several tie-in minis and pretty much every space-based title in Marvel's line) starts off, at least initially, rather benignly. Like the best space opera, it's surprisingly charming in its opening pages. The Starjammers (led by Havok and made up of barely anyone you would recognize from their original incarnation) arrive at the wedding of Crystal and Ronan The Accuser. It is meant to display the new bond between the Kree and the Inhumans. Vulcan and the Shi'ar, naturally, look to disrupt the proceedings.

From there, it's pretty much your standard invasion plot. Vulcan has never been the most appealing of arch villains to me. He always seemed barely interested in his own plans. I get that he's supposed to be a spoiled misanthrope, but it saps some of the peril when the bad guy is just kind of lounging around the throne room. It is nice to see Gladiator's Royal Shi'ar Guard back in action though. Some might remember them fondly from Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men. I'm not sure if he created them or what, but they make great foot soldiers.

Abnett and Lanning are among the architects of Marvel's recent Space Revitalization, so it's no surprise that they have a great handle on making the various factions at play both distinguishable and half-way interesting (which is harder than you'd think). There's a lot of great players here, the rather bland Vulcan aside. The Inhumans are tired of loafing around on the moon, the Starjammers have an exiled Queen in tow, and Ronan The Accuser is totally crushed out on his Arranged Bride. And this is all before the always entertaining Guardians Of The Galaxy have shown up.

Paul Pelletier and Rick Magyar are pulling a bit of an Ivan Reis trick, coming out with their best work just in time for their most high profile gig. There's a lovely hint of Alan Davis' finest days of Excalibur-era, Paul Neary inking in their work here, and it works just as well in the chamber scenes as it does when Black Bolt is ready to rip someone's head off.

This issue might not have the scale of other Marvel events just yet, but both the writing and the art are unassuming in their appeal, but never lacking in it. It is a classically and colorfully fun book, and with the dire machinations of Dark Reign taking over one little corner of the Universe, it's lovely to see the other 99.976% having a blast.

Descendant #5

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