Written by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Art by Paul Pelletier
After a fantastic third issue, War of Kings #4 turns it down a notch to let us catch our breath before knocking the wind right out of us again with another shocking finish. The longer this event goes on, the more it shows that Abnett and Lanning learned from the mistakes of Annihilation: Conquest. While I enjoyed Conquest, it had its faults and War of Kings seems to address all of them. Let's hope the next few issues can keep up the pace.
As for this issue, it opens with some carry over from the War of Kings: Ascension miniseries by having Talon and Darkhawk show up. Talon establishes an alliance with Vulcan after saving him from a Kree/Inhuman sentry and explains to him who the Fraternity of Raptors are and what they've been up to in the Negative Zone with Blastarr. I'm not sure how seamless this is for anyone not reading the Ascension miniseries and, even as someone who is, I found it a little jarring since we haven't seen the so-called Ravenous vs Blastarr battles mentioned here. The sudden appearance of these new players in the event for those only reading the main event may be a negative for some, but I did enjoy the fact they're not just throw away characters like Wrath was in Conquest.
Meanwhile, we were treated to a very enjoyable bit of downtime between Crystal and Ronan, who's still recovering from the wounds he suffered in the sneak attack by the Shi'ar during their wedding in the first issue. The amount of ground covered, from the simple growth of their relationship to Crystal's revealing of the failure of the Inhumans' Kree uplift program, was staggering for so short a scene and continues the trend of Crystal being one of the best parts of this event. There's even a hint of some possible friction between the Kree and Inhumans with a Crystal/Ronan faction possibly developing in light of Black Bolt and the Inhumans recent actions.
Finally, picking up from last issues betrayal of Vulcan, Gladiator and the Starjammers escort Lilandra to the Shi'ar throneworld in an attempt to stage a coup. Through the actions of their rebel faction, they've started uprisings on many outlying and manufacturing worlds, which was shown to be having disasterous effects on the Shi'ar war machine, effectively grinding it to a halt on most fronts.
However, where Lilandra assumed she would be welcomed back as Empress by her people, it seems a large percentage of the population actually love what Vulcan is doing for the Imperium and pro-Vulcan riots started in the streets as Lilandra attempted to be sworn in. Using the chaos of the riots, which I think they helped engineer, the Fraternity of Raptors staged an assassination attempt on Lilandra in order to ingratiate themselves with Vulcan. In the insuing melee, Darkhawk, who had been masquerading as a random Shi'ar citizen, actually succeeds in killing Lilandra. A grieving Gladiator is shown holding her bloodied body to end the issue on another shocking cliffhanger.
I was a little disappointed that Black Bolt was on both covers, yet never showed up in the issue, but, with all options for peace wiped out with Lilandra dead, it looks like the foreshadowed bloody conclusion Crystal spoke of will have to be used, all but promising a showdown between Black Bolt and Vulcan in the next few issues.
Verdict - Must Read. This event just keeps getting better and better. A great middle chapter that most events fill with padding. No wasted pages and every scene felt important. Loving this event and this issue.