Today, we'll be covering Vulcan & The Shi'ar Empire, as well as the related events and characters associated with his rise to power and how it led to his involvement in War of Kings.
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: X-Men: Deadly Genesis -> The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire -> X-Men: Emperor Vulcan -> X-Men: Kingbreaker -> War of Kings
Ever since the X-Men revival by Chris Claremont and company, Earth's mutants have found themselves tied to several adventures in outer space. To understand how a mutant got to the head of the mighty Shi'ar Empire, we would need to go back to the 2005 mini-series, X-Men: Deadly Genesis.
In this mini-series, we learn that there was another team sent to rescue the X-Men from Krakoa, as seen in Giant-Size X-Men #1. This miniseries retconned into existence a team that consisted of new characters Petra (terrakinesis), Sway (time manipulation), Darwin (reactive evolution), and Vulcan (energy manipulation). The team seemingly perished on their first mission, but Vulcan and Darwin survived inside the island's core as it was thrown into space by the new X-Men team that debuted in Giant-Size X-Men.
After the events of House of M, the energy released by thousands of mutants losing their powers served as a catalyst to revive Vulcan. Vulcan then sought revenge on Xavier, whom he blamed for the disaster and cover up of their existence, and, after a series of attempts at finding the now powerless Professor X, he forced him to reveal what had really happened in Krakoa to the rest of the X-Men.
This brought on about two major revelations: 1) Vulcan was revealed to be part of the Summers family (brother to Cyclops and Havok, and son of Corsair), and 2) he was literally ripped from his dying mother's womb by the Shi'ar emperor, D'Ken. As the series ended, Vulcan flew into space to go after the man that had killed his mother and enslaved him as a child.
Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire
The story of Vulcan's rise to power continued in the pages of Uncanny X-Men during the storyline, Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire. Vulcan started his campaign against the Shi'ar by destroying the stargates they used for deep space travel in an effort to get the attention of current head of the empire, Lilandra Neramani.
Back on earth, Xavier gathered a new team of X-Men to go after Vulcan. The team, consisting of Marvel Girl, Warpath, Darwin, Havok, Polaris, and Nightcrawler, utilized a Shi'ar spaceship that had been stranded on Earth and made haste in order to catch up to Vulcan.
Meanwhile, Vulcan had his first clash with the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, but was defeated and imprisoned by Gladiator after a brutal fight. At the same time, there was a dissenting Shi'ar faction of the government, known as The Secret Order, that was not happy with Lilandra's leadership and plotted to dethrone her.
The Secret Order's machinations led to Vulcan escaping and his liberation of Deathbird, Lilandra's sister and former Empress of the Shi'ar. The group's connections also helped manipulate Korvus, a descendant of the first Phoenix, into attacking the X-Men. During Korvus' unwilling attack, several Shi'ar soldiers managed to subdue the powerless, at the time, Xavier, who was still a wanted criminal by the Shi'ar for what Casandra Nova did using his body years ago during Grant Morrison's run on New X-Men.
During this time, Vulcan entered into a relationship with Deathbird. The Secret Order finally made their coup d'état against Lilandra, forcibly removing her from power and imprisoned her. to await an execution. Vulcan and Deathbird eventually met up with the Secret Order on a planet where D'Ken, Deathbird's brother and former emperor, was being kept in a comatose state. Instead of following up on his desire for revenge against the mad emperor, Vulcan instead aids D'Ken, using his powers to revive him from his coma, a fact D'Ken repays by allowing him to marry his sister, Deathbird, and, thus, turning Vulcan into Shi'ar royalty overnight.
Meanwhile, the X-Men found themselves stranded in space after the attack by Korvus, who went on to join the team once he found out he had been duped by the Secret Order. With the help of Korvus, they made a spacejump that allowed them to meet up with the Starjammers. Once the two teams were together, they went on to rescue the imprisoned Lilandra, who then used her political and family connections to influence part of the Shi'ar military to follow her over the recently revived D'Ken.
With their forces consolidated, Lilandra's rebel group attacked during the wedding of Vulcan and Deathbird. However, the marriage had already happened by the time the Starjammers and X-Men arrived and they were forced to fight the Imperial Guard despite their failure. During this fight, Vulcan purposely killed D'Ken and, as he had married Deathbird, became the new emperor of the Shi'ar Empire with Deathbird at his side as empress.
Despite their best efforts, the X-Men only managed wound Vulcan, who ended up escaping. During the battle, Vulcan killed his and Havok's father, Corsair. As a result of their failure to stop Vulcan and seeking revenge for his actions, Marvel Girl, Havok and Polaris stayed behind in space as members of the Starjammers.
In the aftermath of Vulcan's rise to power, the Starjammers continued to chip away at the strength of his fractured empire. Luck seemed to be on their side when a new enemy entered the battlefield - a powerful new alien race called the Scy'ar Tal. The Scy'ar's opening attacks easily defeated Vulcan's forces and the Scy'ar Tal showed off their ruthlessness by deploying a powerful weapon called Finality, which teleports a star onto a target, such as a planet in this case. This act of genocide and wanton destruction led to an uneasy alliance between Vulcan and the Starjammers against a common enemy.
With their combined might, the allies were able to drive back and defeat the power of the Scy'ar Tal, but Vulcan would eventually end up betraying the Starjammers once the threat had ended. In a last desparate act of defiance, a super-charged Havok destroyed the captured Finality weapon, which Vulcan was planning to use for himself, but was forced to surrender to his brother, who's guards had captured the rest of the Starjammers. Even the allies of Lilandra in the Shi'ar fleet gave up on her and sided with Vulcan, who they felt was leading the empire backto its former glory as the dominant faction in the universe, thus securing his reign as Emperor Vulcan.
After being captured at the end of the X-Men: Emperor Vulcan series, Havok and the Starjammers were being held and tortured in an underwater prison world, a prison that Vulcan often visits in order to taunt his brother, Havok.
Meanwhile, Rachel, Korvus and Lilandra, the only Starjammers to elude being captured, were attempting to find their imprisoned teammates while still taking time to cripple Vulcan's forces whenever the occasion arose. Vulcan, in order to gain further support from the Shi'ar populace, began an aggressive empire expansion campaign, including an attack on an alied Kree world.
Vulcan's collision course, combined with the inaction of the Shi'ar during the previous two universal crises, Annihilation and Annihilation: Conquest, prompts the Galactic Council to send an envoy to Vulcan in order to gauge his intentions. Vulcan openly declares war upon the council by killing their wouldbe ambassadors.
Wishing to eliminate the rebel Starjammers, who are also the last vestige of resistence to his throne and whom still elude his grasp, Vulcan takes desperate measures and commissions a new, secret Imperial Guard, which was comprised of dangerous and powerful galactic criminals.
Despite this new Imperial Guard hot on their heels, Marvel Girl, Lilandra and Korvus still managed to reach the prison planet that was holding the rest of the Starjammers, who had also managed to escape from their cells during this time.
The Starjammers, Vulcan, and both Imperial Guards all clashed on this prison world in a vicious battle. Deathbird was severely wounded by Lilandra during the melee and Havok nearly killed Vulcan before Lilandra teleported him and the rest of the Starjammers team to their awaiting ship in order for them all to escape. The Starjammers then made their escape from Shi'ar space and headed towards Kree space in search of refugee, which was picked up in the opening pages of War of Kings #1.
Long lost brother of Cyclops and Havok, he has a wide range of energy manipulation powers that he originally planned to use to destroy the Shi'ar. Since then, he has changed his plan by befriending and later killing D'Ken, married Deathbird and became the new Emperor of the Shi'ar Empire. Despite his power and position, he still behaves in childish and sometimes illogical ways, always trying to get what he wants without thinking of the consequences of his actions, which stems from his long years of isolation and hibernation after Krakoa was jettisoned into space during Deadly Genesis.
The Shi'ar Imperial Guard
Led by the perennial powerhouse known as Gladiator, they are loyal and protective of whomever is emperor of the Shi'ar, regardless of their feelings towards said emperor. This small army is made up of the most powerful beings in the universe. Recently, Vulcan started a second Imperial Guard made up of dangerous criminals that may cause conflict with his main guard.
The Secret Order
A group of powerful individuals that wished for the Shi'ar's to return to their militaristic and expansion oriented ways. Led by Chancellor Araki, they planned a coup against Lilandra in hopes of returning former Emperor D'Ken to power. Their plan malfunctioned as Vulcan killed D'Ken and now they must serve under an emperor that is not even Shi'ar. Whether they will be involved in this war with the Kree or not is left to be seen.
Former empress of the Shi'ar, she was known for her peaceful ways and romantic relationship with Charles Xavier. She is the younger sister of Deathbird and D'Ken. After the attack of Cassandra Nova, her marriage to Xavier was annulled and she suffered a mental breakdown, which meant her power was delegated to Chancellor Araki. Despite being loved by her people, the Secret Order does not approve of her actions, beliefs and the way she rules. She is currently in hiding with the Starjammers and has been attempting to remove Vulcan from power so that she can return to her position as empress of the Shi'ar.
One of the earliest recruits of the X-Men, Havok has since taken leadership of the Starjammers after the death of his father, Corsair, at the hands of Vulcan. He recently received a cosmic power-up after being thrown into a star and absorbing the living star, Hoddin, which made him one of the few people powerful enough to go up against Vulcan. Havok is a good and intelligent leader, but doubts himself because of the shadow his brother, Cyclops, and father cast over him.
A band of space pirates that has fought against Shi'ar Empire for a long time. When Lilandra became empress, they became allies of the Shi'ar, but were forced to return to their rebellious status after she was overthrown by Vulcan. With the death of their former leader, Corsair, Havok stepped in as his replacement and now leads the space pirates, who's current members include Polaris, Raza , Ch'od, Marvel Girl, Korvus, and Lilandra.