War of Kings #4, in stores now* Spoilers ahead for War of Kings #4 *
In the final pages of War of Kings #4, readers got one of the more shocking moments in the event as Lilandra Neramani was apparently assassinated.
First appearing in The X-Men #97 in 1976, Lilandra was ruler of the Shi'ar, and also became a love interest for X-Men leader Charles Xavier. In War of Kings, she and the Starjammers were attempting to peacefully dethrone current Shi'ar leader Vulcan, who is the driving force behind the space war after taking over in Lilandra's absence.
But the final page of War of Kings #4 revealed that the peaceful coup attempt had failed, as Lilandra lay unconscious in the arms of Gladiator with a seemingly lethal wound in her chest. Despite the fact that Gladiator stated the "fire" had "gone out," many Marvel fans have wondered -- is Lilandra really dead?
Newsarama contacted War of Kings writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning about the Lilandra assassination, with the writers using their moniker of "DnA" to answer the questions we asked. And as Abnett and Lanning shared the script description for that final scene, it became apparent that the X-Men universe has lost Lilandra Neramani, and the War of Kings just took a turn for the worse.
Newsarama: First off, everyone wonders if Lilandra is really dead. Is this shot through the heart really the end of Lilandra?
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning: It certainly looks that way. And Gladiator's response wouldn't contradict that!
NRAMA: How did the decision to end this character's life come about? Was it always part of the series, or did it just evolve out of the story?
DnA: Lilandra's assassination was on table from our initial story meeting back in the summer of '08 when we pitched our ideas for the series to [Marvel editors] Bill Rosemann, Tom Brevoort and Nick Lowe. Lilandra's fate was sealed during that conflab. It grew organically from the story as we are always looking for moments that will catch the readers unaware and provoke an ‘I-can't-believe-they-did-that!' response. We were also determined from the outset that this crossover story would have genuine and lasting consequences to the Marvel Cosmic Universe. Killing Lilandra raises the game even more; it affects the whole Marvel Universe!
NRAMA: With this character's long history in the X-Men universe, was it a tough decision for editorial to OK her death? Why did it make sense at this time?
DnA: Nick Lowe has supported us all the way and has let us pretty much do what we planned. He's obviously watching out for the X-Men characters throughout but totally understood what we are trying to achieve and saw that this was the best way to serve the story. And other than expressing a desire that Lilandra's death actually meant something, a point we agreed wholeheartedly with, he approved it from the get go.
We're all in this to tell great stories, huge cosmic scale action but with as much emotional drama as possible. Lilandra's fate gives us that in spades.
NRAMA: Will Xavier find out about this anytime soon? How might he react?
DnA: I'm sure Charles will be shaken and upset by the news: they are soul mates and have an intense psychic bond. I imagine it will devastate him. Exactly what he does about it and how things play out remain to be seen. Such is the fun with writing in such grand events -- their reverberations can echo across many books and touch many characters. It helps to shake things up and keep things interesting for all involved.
NRAMA: What is the significance of Lilandra's death in the war now? And how will the Inhumans respond?
DnA: Up until now, Black Bolt has been refraining from committing his forces to an all-out offensive as he wants to end the war with a minimum of suffering and wanted to see if the Starjammer's mission to replace Lilandra could avert the need for war between the two Empires. With the missions a failure and Lilandra removed, Black Bolt's hand could well be forced and, as Crystal has mused, it won't be pretty.
NRAMA: Will this damage Vulcan's hold over his people, or strengthen it?
DnA: With Lilandra removed from the equation, the Shi'Ar Empire is truly split: Chandelair is in flames: the Shi'Ar supporting the Neramani faction are out in the open and are in conflict with the Emperor's supporters. This could have very dangerous consequences for Vulcan, who is already feeling the strain of conducting such a wide reaching war. To loose the support of the Shi'Ar home world would leave him isolated and fighting on too many fronts. Backed into a corner like this, it's not too great a leap to guess how the mercurial and hot-tempeered Vulcan might react- when he's riled: Things get destroyed and people die!
NRAMA: What lies ahead for Gladiator now that Lilandra has died?
DnA: How Gladiator will react and what he will do following Lilandra's assassination is at the very heart of the remaining story. We'll take the 5th on that one.
NRAMA: Should Lilandra's executioner watch his back now?
DnA: The more observant readers will have spotted that Lilandra's assassin was no other than Darkhawk! However, this Darkhawk was under the control of the Raptor, Razor. What this means for Chris Powell is revealed in Ascension #3-#4.
NRAMA: How did you describe the death scene in the script, and what did you think of how Paul Pelletier pulled it off?
DnA: You tell us, here's the script as we wrote it:
PAGE TWENTY TWO
Full page splash.
The final shot, amid the chaos of the scene. The heartbroken Gladiator kneels and cradles the dead Lilandra in his arms. She’s been shot, and blood pools around them on the broken pavement. Horrified onlookers all around, mainly Shi’Ar, but could include Havok and/or Polaris. Title at foot of page with credits.
...when the fire goes out.
King takes Queen
We think Paul captured the shock and loss they are all feeling perfectly but especially Gladiator's loss as his pose eloquently sums up his complex relationship with his Empress.
NRAMA: What can you tell us about what's coming next for readers of War of Kings?
DnA: We don't think it's giving too much away to say that things are building to the inevitable showdown between Vulcan and Black Bolt, but exactly how that plays out and what the implications are for the whole of the Marvel cosmic universe will have to be seen to be believed.