"War of Kings" has been building for a while on the periphery of the Marvel Universe. The "Secret Invasion: Inhumans" series seemed to lead into it, even if that was a relatively self-contained story, and the seeds of this story were planted as far back as Ed Brubaker's first X-Men work. Because "War of Kings," at its core, is the story about that lost Summers brother, Vulcan, and his megalomaniacal leadership of the Shi'ar Empire.
But it's also about the war between the Kree and the Shi'ar, with the Inhumans on the side of the Kree and the Starjammers (with Alex Summers) caught in the crossfire. Or eager to join the crossfire, depending on how you look at it.
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are good at this sort of thing. Unlike the tedious "X-Men: Kingbreaker" series, which was one perfunctory set piece after another, "War of Kings" mixes epic drama with engaging character moments. Abnett and Lanning can juggle it all with style, and after a strong first issue they've come back in issue #2 with maybe a bit less grandeur, but an effective progression of story events nonetheless. With such a huge cast of characters, it can be difficult to keep everyone straight -- and determine who wants what from whom -- but Abnett and Lanning pull back and shift from one faction to the next with narrative ease.
With Paul Pelletier (and the appropriately thick brushwork of Rick Magyar) providing some dynamic images, we alternate between scenes of the tragically fallen Kree Ronan with the Inhuman Crystal trying to boost morale. When told about her sister's positive affect on the civilians, Medusa sternly dismisses her sister's actions: "That's just simple statecraft. We were all trained in it." It's an effective line of dialogue, cutting to the essence of Medusa's character, and it sets up a deflation of her ego when she finds out that Crystal is being called "the people's princess."
Abnett, Lanning, and Pelletier also unveil the "Chorus Sentries," giant offensive robots designed to look like enormous metal Black Bolts, powered by "echo-tech." And we see the Inhuman elite preparing for zero-g combat, as the war escalates.
This is some of Pelletier's best work, and Abnett and Lanning haven't written anything as sharp as this in years. It may be nothing more than another space battle featuring Marvel characters who can't support their own series, but when it's done well, that's enough.