“The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire: Chapter 9: Vulcan’s Descent”
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Clayton Henry (p), Mark Morales (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: Progress is made this issue, mostly thanks to Deathbird, who seems changed herself... or maybe she’s just being sneaky again.
Comments: This is another all-Vulcan issue, but it’s an improvement (both visually and narratively) over the earlier ones. Because at last something has happened. Vulcan has fallen in love. With Deathbird. The brilliant wrong-headedness of that underscores just what an odd sort of Summers brother he is. Age-accelerated, raised in secret, betrayed and trapped in a super-powered coma of sorts for years … everything that’s left him incredibly empowered has also left him an extremely angry and callow child. And Deathbird (though her feelings may be to some extent genuine) is completely content to use his unavoidable, tragic inexperience to bind him to her, and to her goals relating to the revived Emperor D’Ken, whatever they really may be.
The Shi’ar’s political struggles are the backdrop to the epic tales in this issue, and we are witness to a warrior empire riven by factions of loyalty to various potential rulers. Deathbird no longer wants the job, but Araki (the traitor!?) is happy with any authentic royalty on the throne, whether her or an as yet unrevived D’Ken. His revival is quite an ironic twist, and the unexpected events keep unfolding as he makes Vulcan (whose mother he killed, whose life he ruined, whose fate he irrevocably altered) a fascinating offer.
Henry, who has struggled with tone to some extent with previous fill-in issues in this arc, does a better job of capturing the arrogant Shi’ar and the dark, spooky space opera mood that Billy Tan depicts so well in his issues. His D’Ken this issue is the embodiment of the original Cockrum design, and his battle scenes are bloody and dramatic. Whether this space adventure is to one’s taste or not, Brubaker is offering what he promised every month in this tale rich in new combinations of old ideas.
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