Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Paul Pelletier
Great googily moogily, this issue was easily the best comic this week and just about every second page was a candidate for the Moments of the Week.
In fact, the only "bad", and I use the term loosely, part of the issue was the predictable copout opening pages. If you recall, last issue featured Lilandra captuerd and brought before Emperor Vulcan, who was ready to execute her on the spot while Gladiator watched on. This issue started off with the Fleet Admiral stopping Vulcan and explaining how he'd simply make her a martyr and other expected reasons for him not to actually kill her. It was still solid writing and logical, but cheapens the effect of the cliffhanger from last month and everyone saw it coming a mile away.
Thankfully, that was the only complaint I had with this issue. We've got quiet moments that further expanded Crystal's, of the Inhuman Royal Family, role in the politics of the Kree Empire and her relationship with Ronan has been wonderfully fleshed out. It also appears there's either going to be an eventual butting of heads between Ronan and Crystal with Black Bolt and the other Inhumans by the end of this event or possible seeds for an Inhumans miniseries or ongoing coming out of the event.
From these quiet moments on Hala, we jumped to the action packed reprisal of the Inhumans and Starjammers, who recently joined up with the Guardians of the Galaxy in the Guardians' tie-in issue. This fight sequence featured some amazing moments, such as Rocket Raccoon going one-on-one with Gladiator (and winning! Kind of...), Groot playing the role of the "big stick" against the magnetic based Imperial Guard, Electron, and, probably the biggest moment of all, Gladiator's betrayal of Vulcan, which left me with my mouth hanging opening in disbelief over what I just saw as Gladiator takes his former Imperial Guard member's head off with his heat vision, much to the utter shock and horror of the rest of the pro-Vulcan Shi'ar present, and declares his loyalty to Lilandra.
Sure, many will probably point to this as some predictable due to the fact they gave Gladiator a lot of face time and even some thought boxes throughout the storyarc, but even with all these supposedly obvious tells, it came down to a 50/50 chance as to whether he would betray Vulcan or kill Lilandra and I'm betting the same people scoffing it off as predictable storytelling would be saying the same thing if he had sided with Vulcan here. In the end, Gladiator has been built up like this before and always stuck with his Emperor du jour and, to me, true, this was something I could see happening, but no more or less than the other, easier option occuring, which we had years of other stories to support.
Verdict - Must Read. It's hard to believe how good War of Kings has been so far and we haven't even seen a Vulcan vs Black Bolt match up or Black Bolt vs Gladiator rematch or any kind of cutting loose between the actual "kings" of this event.