Abnett and Lannig: Readying for War of Kings

Abnett and Lannig on War of Kings

War of Kings #1, due in stores in March

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who led the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II, was said to have been reluctant to awaken a "sleeping giant" on that day, knowing the Americans would turn their anger and outrage into military might.

As Secret Invasion ends, the Inhumans have suffered a similar surprise attack, including the brutal capture of their beloved King Black Bolt. It's not the first time the Inhumans have played the victim, but this time, the angered sleeping giant is fighting back.

As Mavel announced in San Diego, the full force of the Inhumans will clash with the Shi'Ar in next year's cosmic event War of Kings by co-writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. While the focus of the galactic war will be on the Shi'Ar and the Inhumans, War of Kings will affect and involve characters from throughout the cosmic and X-universes, like Havok, the Starjammers, Nova and the Nova Corps, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and even Darkhawk in his own two-issue tie-in series, War of Kings: Darkhawk.

While the six-issue War of Kings mini-series begins in March, the event kicks off in January with a Secret Invasion: War of Kings one-shot telling how Secret Invasion leads to the epic war that will tear through the Marvel Universe. After months of reading about sneaky, secret Skrulls, War of Kings will give readers a different flavor of war -- an event that Abnett and Lanning call a "dynastic, regal, intrigue-based" story reminiscent of something "Shakespearean."

Newsarama talked to Abnett and Lanning about the upcoming Secret Invasion: War of Kings one-shot, how other series like Nova, X-Men: Kingbreaker and Guardians of the Galaxy tie into the event, and what else you need to know to pick up War of Kings.

Newsarama: As we come out of Secret Invasion, we've talked to Brian Bendis and Dan Slott and some of the other people guiding the earth-bound activities of the Marvel Universe, and they plan to move beyond Skrulls. Are you guys going to be hitting upon what happened to the Skrulls after all this?

Dan Abnett: Yes, to a certain extent. One of the nice things about War of Kings is it's going to give us an opportunity to connect the cosmic corner with the earth-based Marvel Universe, and also the X-office Marvel Universe, a bit of the cosmic that we don't usually get to touch. So just organically out of the way the story grows, we're actually linking up bits that we haven't been able to connect up before. And one of the big reasons for that is the consequences of Secret Invasion.

Secret Invasion: War of Kings Special

Secret Invasion, although happening on earth, was a very cosmic event. And we will follow its consequences out into the cosmic backdrop of the books that we write. And in the Secret Invasion: War of Kings one-shot, we will get to see the fate and destiny of some of the Skrulls who have fled the earth after Secret Invasion as a preliminary to the main event, which is about the Inhumans and what the Secret Invasion has driven them to do.

NRAMA: For people who don't know much about War of Kings, because we haven't talked a lot about it since it was announced earlier this year, can you sum up what War of Kings is going to be about?

Andy Lanning: We're going to tell the story of what happens when the maximum military might of the Shi'Ar comes in direct collision with the Kree Empire, and by that time it will be no secret that they are being led by the Inhumans. The Inhumans, coming out of Secret Invasion and out of the Secret Invasion: War of Kings one-shot, will be firmly in position as the leaders of the Kree Empire. They reach their destiny, the goal that the Kree set out for them – to be their elite fighting force – the Inhumans have decided to pursue that and subsequently are a lot more proactive than they have been in the past.

DA: That's the crucial thing. The Inhumans have always had a sort of stoicism. They have historically been the target of everybody else's schemes and have often been the victim. And they suffered terribly at the hands of the Skrulls, particularly Black Bolt. So this is a case of where they've had enough and they're not going to take it anymore. And they decide to be aggressively pursue their own destiny. And that's a very exciting thing to write. So yes, it's the Inhumans versus everyone else, and in this case the "everyone else" is going to be the Shi'Ar Empire.

So it's a major galactic war; it's also got the feel of the Fall of the Roman Empire or something Shakespearean. We joked that it's I, Claudius with superheroes. And it's very much like that. It's about power and responsibility and leadership and royal privilege and that kind of thing, so it's a rather different story than the ones we've done before.

NRAMA: You speak of "royals." But to bring everyone up to speed with the players here, the main "kings" in this story are going to be Black Bolt, king of the Inhumans, and Vulcan, emperor of the Shi'Ar, correct?

AL: Yes, they are our main two kings who go to war. But obviously, both of them have characters who surround them – the extended royal family in the Inhumans' case, as well as Vulcan of the Shi'Ar and their Imperial Guard. But although they are the main focus of the story, we’ll actually tell the story through the eyes of Crystal of the Inhumans and Gladiator of the Shi'Ar. They'll be the points of view that we follow the main events through.

Darkhawk #1

We'll also be featuring Guardians of the Galaxy, Nova, Darkhawk, the Starjammers – there are lots of other characters who cross over into the story.

NRAMA: Will there be a Nova Corps in this story?

DA: The Nova Corps will play a part in it as well. Obviously, if there's a huge galactic conflict going on, the Nova Corps will feel they should get involved. And the Guardians' purpose is to protect and preserve the fragile state of the universe, which something like two warring factions going at it is going to upset. So they have to get involved.

AL: Our cast of characters is huge. It's cosmic in scale.

NRAMA: Obviously, the stories in Nova and Guardians of Galaxy are leading up to War of Kings, but how will those two ongoing series interact with the main War of Kings mini-series?

DA: War of Kings becomes this huge backdrop through which we tell the ongoing stories of Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy. Imagine it as one big historical event. If War of Kings equates to World War II, you can tell different stories set in different theaters. So Guardians will be in one corner doing one thing, and Nova will be somewhere else doing something else. And I think they share the commonality of War of Kings.

One thing we wanted to make sure of was that the ongoing books told stories that were worthwhile and weren't dragged into the crossover for the sake of being dragged into the crossover. But that the big event focused and directed the stories that we would be telling anyway.

NRAMA: But War of Kings stands on its own?

AL: Yes. There's a six-issue main mini. Alongside that is a four-issue Darkhawk series, as well as the concurrent issues of Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova that will be weaving in and out of the story. It's not a direct necessity to the story, but as Dan said, War of Kings serves as such an important backdrop in the cosmic universe that Nova and Guardians will be tied up with that as well.

NRAMA: A lot of people will see this as another "Annihilation." What does it have in common with the Annihilation event, because a lot of your fans loved your Conquest story, but what about it is different?

AL: We called it just War of Kings to make it clear that we're not just putting the same characters through the mill. This is something very different that comes out of Secret Invasion, and so a new name seemed appropriate. The comparison with the Annihilation event is that we're involved with it, creatively speaking, and a lot of the structure of the universe has been shaped by the Annihilation event.

But it really is a much more dynastic, regal, intrigue-based story. It's much less of a cosmic disaster and much more about political nations going to war and how personal ambitions are driving things. I supposed it's more character-driven than menace-driven.

NRAMA: Since you have the Shi'Ar showing up, are you having to coordinate this with the X-Universe at all?

X-Men: Kingbreaker #1

AL: Yes, we've been coordinating with the X-Men office, and we're actually coming out of the X-Men: Kingbreaker mini-series that's putting the pieces from their side of the story in place. It won't involved the X-Men directly, but we'll deal with the cosmic side of the X-Men, including Vulcan and the Shi'Ar and the Starjammers. Obviously, they're fundamentally tied up with the X-Men side of the universe, so we had to get permission and work closely with them. And previously, they weren't included because they were tied up with the X-books, so this was great for us. It's great fun to finally feel out that side of the cosmic universe that we hadn't dealt with as far as logical galactic players on that sort of scale.

NRAMA: With all of the stories that are setting up War of Kings, from Secret Invasion: Inhumans to X-Men: Kingbreaker to the stories in Nova and Guardians, is War of Kings something that a newcomer to the Marvel cosmic universe can understand with Issue #1? Or should they start with the Secret Invasion: War of Kings one-shot?

AL: Absolutely, they can pick up the Secret Invasion: War of Kings one-shot, because it really does set the scene. Obviously, when writing something like this, you'd like the readers to be engaged enough with the stories we're telling that they want to pick up every book. But we're realistic enough to realize that you can't burden someone with that, because you can actually alienate people. So if they want to pick up the Kingbreaker mini-series, they'll get an extra piece from that side of things. It's kind of supplemental reading that helps flesh out and round out the entire story. But it's not necessary.

Everything you need to know will be explained in War of Kings #1. We realize that everyone can't buy everything that leads in, so the core book will read and stand alone. If you want to read more, you can really immerse yourself completely in War of Kings by reading the other comics, but the main mini-series, if we're doing our job properly, should have a complete story.

NRAMA: After the Annihilation series, the two of you continued telling cosmic stories with the Nova ongoing series, and after Conquest, there was a new ongoing in Guardians of the Galaxy. Can we expect a new ongoing coming out of War of Kings?

AL: It would be lovely if there was something like that coming out of War of Kings. One of the things we've seen with the Annihilation events is that they generate a great deal of interest in things that can be propelled into their own series. It would be stupid not to take advantage of that sort of thing if it's presented to you. What we have discovered so far, though, is there's no telling what that's going to be, necessarily. In Conquest, particularly, Keith did such a fantastic job of handling Rocket Raccoon and Groot and Star-Lord that they really propelled themselves into a much bigger role than we could have anticipated, and that's really where Guardians came from – how interested people were in those characters.

The obvious one to pick from War of Kings, I guess, would be Darkhawk. We're using him in a very interesting way, and if there's any logic to it, he's the character who will get a little bit of a makeover during the course of the event, a little like Nova did in the original Annihilation, and may well have, then, enough legs to carry into his own book. But we're not sure about that. You can never tell what's going to be the thing that catches people's imagination.

NRAMA: Is there anything else you want to tell people about the Secret Invasion: War of Kings one-shot or the event itself?

DA: Any really good event is one that properly moves story forward. It's a shame when a story puts everything back the way it found it at the beginning. And War of Kings is definitely a story where at the end, people are going to go, "Gosh, I didn't see that coming! I didn't expect them to be that bold! I didn't expect the story to have such a huge impact on the way the Marvel Universe works." And I think that's something we really relish in, to tell a story that matters, rather than one that just ends where it left off.

AL: And again, after the six issues of War of Kings, it would be great if readers who came on board for Secret Invasion would try out the cosmic universe with War of Kings. Obviously, people who have stuck with us through all the cosmic events are going to want to stick around and see what we do next. It will definitely cause significant change to the Marvel Universe to the point where people will want to see where things go from there. Things will not be the same.

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