However, please note that as so much has occurred in the cosmic universe at Marvel, we've tried our best to restrict the information contained here to basic summaries of events with a focus on those things most pertinent to War of Kings.
Reading Order: Annihilation -> Nova #1-12 -> Annihilation: Conquest -> Nova / Guardians of the Galaxy -> Secret Invasion -> War of Kings: Darkhawk -> War of Kings
- Annihilation: Conquest
- Secret Invasion
- King Blastaar
- Return of the Nova Corps
- Darkhawk & Talon
- The Nova Corps
- Nova (Richard Rider)
- Xandarian Worldmind
- Guardians of the Galaxy
- King Blastaar
While much of what is happening in War of Kings does not require you to read Annihilation, it is highly recommended you read it in order to have a basic understanding for the current state of the cosmic universe at Marvel. Many of the characters that rose to prominence in that critically acclaimed series will be appearing in supporting roles throughout War of Kings and Annihilation paved the way for the current ongoings for these characters in the forms of Nova and Guardians the Galaxy.
Coming out of Annihilation, Nova was given his own ongoing series, which quickly started building towards the next major even, Annihilation: Conquest. The events of Conquest play directly into War of Kings. This is primarily due to the fact Ultron and the Phalanx initiated Conquest by conquering the Kree homeworld, Hala, and then, through the use of the Babel Spire, set up an impenetrable forcefield around all of Kree space so that no one could escape. This Babel Spire was left in tact at the end of the event and was last seen being destroyed by a Shi'ar infiltrator in War of Kings #1, which allowed the Shi'ar Imperial Guard to initiate their attack on Hala in that same issue.
Combined with the events of Annihilation, which saw multiple Skrull planets decimated, the Skrulls were left with little choice but to invade Earth in search of a new home, which was detailed in the summer event, Secret Invasion. The one thing to take from this is that they failed to conquer Earth and the Skrulls pose no threat to anyone at this point, especially after the Inhumans hunted down the last of their armada and destroyed them in the Secret Invasion: War of Kings special.
However, the most significant cosmic event to take place in this time period actually took place in another universe - the Negative Zone, to be precise. While on a mission to aid the Kree, Starlord was banished to the Negative Zone, where he met up with the current ruler, King Blastaar. Blastaar had been building an army in the Negative Zone and intended to invade Earth through the use of Prison 42, the prison created to hold unregistered supers in Civil War, which had the only available portal to Earth.
While Starlord eventually escaped, Blastaar remained in control of 42 and was last seen attempting to gain access to the portal to Earth, which can only be opened from the Baxter Building side of the portal. While Blastaar is slated to show up in War of Kings, it is unknown what his role will be.
Return of the Nova Corps
While Nova's ongoing has seen many an excellent story over the past couple of years, the only thing you need to know going into War of Kings is that he isn't Nova anymore. Worldmind, the super computer repository of all Xandarian knowledge and head of the Nova Corps, has gone behind Richard Rider's back and re-established the Nova Corps in the form of mass recruitment of thousands of Earthlings for the new corps.
Furthermore, Worldmind has removed himself from Richard's mind, where he had been kept safe since the events of Annihilation, and taken up residence in the consiciousness of Ego, the Living Planet. To cap it off, when Nova refused to return the bulk of the Nova Force, Worldmind forcibly cut Richard off from the Nova Force and kicked him out of the Nova Corps.
Going into War of Kings, the new Nova Corps has been described as sacrificial lambs for the event and, seeing as Worldmind has deployed the corps to Kree space, it looks as if the rookie corps will be having difficulties quelling the war between the Kree and the Shi'ar.
As for Richard Rider, he should, based on future covers, make an appearance in War of Kings as the new Quasar. More than likely, he will be merging with the energy form of the recently returned original Quasar, Wendell Vaughn.
Darkhawk & Talon
Darkhawk is a former New Warrior and friend of Nova. During War of Kings: Darkhawk, his origin was expanded upon and it was revealed that the amulet that grants him his powers is cosmic in origin. In that same series, he was confronted by an alien user of the Darkhawk amulet named Talon.
Currently, the duo are set to continue their adventure in War of Kings: Ascension, which, according to solicits, takes place in the Negative Zone against "Annihilus' forces". Whether this is actually meant to be Blastaar's army or if Annihilus will return or if Talon and Darkhawk will end up teaming with Blastaar to fight back against Annihilus' forces remains to be seen.
The Nova Corps
Originally, the Nova Corps acted as the militia and peace corps for the planet Xandar. Over time, the corps expanded its sphere of influence and came to be a form of galactic peacekeepers.
During Annihilation, Annihilus' Annihilation Wave wiped out the Nova Corps and its homeworld, Xandar. The only survivor was Earth's Nova, Richard Rider, who managed to download the Worldmind into himself, along with the entirety of the Nova Force.
Nova (Richard Rider)
Richard Rider is Earth's Nova Corps member. As the sole surviving member of the Nova Corps after the Annihilation Wave destroyed Xandar and the entirety of the corps, Richard was charged with housing the Xandarian Worldmind and safekeeping it until he could find a new home for it to reside.
To help him with this deed, the Worldmind granted Richard the status of Nova Prime and, with it, the entirety of the Nova Force. This increased Richard's powers exponentially, effectively making him one of the most powerful beings in the universe.
However, in recent issues of Nova, the Worldmind revealed he had been creating a new Nova Corps without Richard's knowledge or consent and even went so far as to relocate himself into Ego, the Living Planet. When Richard refused to relinquish the bulk of the Nova Force, the Worldmind forcbly removed it from him and expelled him from the Nova Corps.
It was later revealed that Richard's body was mutated to help him use the Nova Force and that without it, he would die in 48 hours. The original Quasar, Wendell Vaughn, who had returned as an energy-based being, granted Richard the use of his Quantum Bands to help him track down the Worldmind, who left with his new Nova Corps for Kree space to stop the war betweent he Shi'ar and the Kree, and hopefully regain access to the Nova Force.
Xandarian Worldmind, a sentient super computer that houses the entirety of the Xandarian peoples' culture and was both the political and spiritual advisor for the Xandarians. Worldmind also generated and regulated the distribution of the Nova Force to various Nova Corps members, which granted powers ranging from basic flight and limited super strength in recruits to vast and near limitless powers for the corps leader, known as the Nova Prime.
Recently, the Worldmind had been kept in Richard Rider's mind and helped coordinate his use of the Nova Force. Worldmind eventually shut down for repairs when it was damaged while trying to prevent the spread of the Phalanx techno-organic virus that had infected Richard during Annihilation: Conquest.
When the Worldmind finally returned during the recent Secret Invasion event, he was markedly different and more hostile towards Richard. It is speculated there could be outside influences causing this or the sentient computer could just be acting in its own best interests after Richard nearly wiped out centuries of Xandarian knowledge by neglecting his duty to find the Worldmind a safe home.
As such, the Worldmind struck a deal with Ego the Living Planet and relocated itself to be housed there and has renamed Ego as Nu-Xandar. Continuing with this, Worldmind went on a mass recruiting drive on Earth and has rebuilt the Nova Corps in a matter of days. However, it has been revealed that the Worldmind is manipulating its newest recruits by pumping them full of endorphins and other manipulative techniques to foster a much more obediant group of Novas than the rebellious Richard Rider.
Worldmind was last seen taking his new corps to Kree space in an attempt to put a stop to the war between the Kree and Shi'ar.
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Guardians of the Galaxy is a recently formed team of would-be heroes that joined together during Annihilation: Conquest. Led by the human, Peter Quill, also known as Starlord, the team is made up of cosmic powerhouses, such as Adam Warlock, Gamora, Phyla-Vel and Drax, as well as lesser known cosmic characters, such as Rocket Raccoon, Mantis, Bug and the time displaced Vance Astro.
The Guardians make their home on the space station Knowhere, which is located at the edge of the universe and is basically the head of a decapitated Celestial. They make use of advanced teleportation technology to make their way around the universe.
In regards to War of Kings, the team will be attempting to convince both sides in the war to put an end to the conflict before it tears the universe apart. There is also the recent issues of the series where Starlord had confronted King Blastaar in the Negative Zone. It is unknown if the team will confront him again in War of Kings, but Blastaar is scheduled to make an appearance, most likely in the War of Kings: Ascension miniseries.
Darkhawk is an Earthling named Chris Powell. He is a friend of Nova, Richard Rider, and a former New Warrior. Originally, his powers stemmed from an alien gem that granted him the use of a powerful battlesuit. With the conclusion of his recent miniseries, War of Kings: Darkhawk, it was revealed that the amulet was not unique and actually was created for use by the Fraternity of Raptors. The Fraternity was described as, "the curators of history, and the custodians of the future", of which Darkhawk was one of only two surviving members. Darkhawk's story is set to continue in War of Kings: Ascension, where he and the other Darkhawk, known as Talon, will appear.
Talon is an alien member of the Fraternity of Raptors, a cosmic group referred to as the curators of history and custodians of the future. He uses a power armour similar to that of Darkhawk and revealed to Darkhawk that they were the only two surviving members of the Fraternity. Little else is known about Talon other than that he travelled across the universe to find Darkhawk and was pursued by a mysterious alien being, which the two destroyed together. He offers to help Darkhawk learn more about his armour and how to control it if he would join him on his quest. The two team up and head off to the Negative Zone, a story which continues in War of Kings: Ascension.
Blastaar is a resident of the Negative Zone and long time enemy of the Fantastic Four that has attempted to conquer on Earth on numerous occasions. During Annihilation: Conquest, he had teamed with the Kree to battle back against Ultron and the Phalanx.
Most recently, he somehow became king of the Negative Zone and forcibly enlisted the aid of Starlord to help him seize control of Prison 42, the prison for super powered people created during Civil War, in an attempt to gain access to the portal to Earth so that he could, again, attempt to conquer it.
While Starlord escaped, Blastaar still managed to take control of 42 and its portal only to find it was locked from the Earth side, which is located in the Fantastic Four headquarters. He was last seen attempting to find alternative means of opening the portal. King Blastaar is scheduled to appear in War of Kings, but his role in the grand scheme of things is unclear. More than likely, he will appear in the Negative Zone-based War of Kings: Ascension miniseries.