With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artist: Paco Diaz
Issues: X-Men: Emperor Vulcan #1-5
With relief from my recent 12+ issues, mammoth volumes of comics comes this nice little mini-series. In Uncanny X-Men: Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire we saw the deadly rise of long-lost Summers brother Vulcan (first introduced in X-Men: Deadly Genesis) take out his revenge on the entire alien empire, establishing himself as supreme ruler, and kicking most of the X-Men back to Earth.
A few stayed behind – Havok, Polaris, and Marvel Girl (Rachel Grey), who join the leader-less Starjammers and vow to never stop hunting Vulcan. Emperor Vulcan presents a fun interstellar war that effectively focuses on its few important characters, and acts as both a sequel to Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire as well as setting up events for the next great Marvel cosmic clash, War of Kings.
The story begins as the new Starjammers have joined forces with the Shi’ar resistance in fight back against the usurper Vulcan. Just as the spaceship armadas clash together, a new faction suddenly emerges, crying “Death to the Shi’ar.” They launch a powerful weapon at a nearby Shi’ar colonized planet, a beacon that summons a star through a warpgate, slamming into the planet and destroying its several billion population.
When this new race, looking a bit like humanoid Predators, destroys Vulcan’s ship and breaks Gladiator’s hand, they have no choice but to ally themselves with the Starjammers and the resistance to battle them. It turns out that thousands of years ago the Shi’ar came through and destroyed the M’Kraan people and took their crystal, and now the rest of them are out for revenge using their planet-destroying technology.
It’s basically the plot of the rebooted Star Trek film from 2009 and leads to a lot of really spiffy visuals and bright explosions by Paco Diaz’s wonderfully action-packed art. I especially loved the way he drew Marvel Girl’s blue phoenix manifestations, and even making Havok’s normally dorky looking circle powers crackle with energy and power – props to colorist Brian Reber as well!
With only five issues things move fairly swiftly as our two hated forces come together under necessity to battle the M’Kraan. They divide their forces and you can guess that Havok and Vulcan end up together to fight the big bad Eldest, leader of the M’Kraan. After defeating him they quickly turn on each other, giving us the knock down, drag out super-powered fight we’ve been waiting for.
It’s actually quite satisfying, and fun to see the normally lame Havok (with his boring self-doubting personality) really let loose after Vulcan throws him into a star. Havok absorbs the power and fires it right back. Just when he’s ready to deal with the deathblow, Vulcan’s Imperial Guard shows up with the rest of the Starjammers in chains, and Havok is forced to surrender.
Thus the series ends with Vulcan actually winning. The M’Kraan invaders are destroyed but Vulcan has cemented his rule amongst his people, proving he was willing to do whatever it took to protect the Shi’ar. This also ends their civil war, as Lilandra’s Uncle (and General) decides to join forces with Vulcan, allowing her to flee.
I’m sure once I dive into future cosmic events, Emperor Vulcan will look like a weird, random stop-over story with a somewhat silly alien race popping up and needing to be dealt with. Chris Yost’s writing style remains fun and fresh, with a TV-like quality that helps make you care about the cast he’s working with. I particularly like that he spends some time on the relationships between characters, both romantic and friendly. And it helps that the art is solid, with the explosive interstellar action definitely playing to Diaz’s strengths. If you’d have been keeping up with the X-Men’s intergalactic exploits at the time, it’s a fun and quick read.