Friday, April 3, 2015

Deadly Exodus

While I didn't much care for the thrown-together way in which a third Summers sibling was created, I thoroughly enjoyed how Vulcan, the flawed, damaged brother to Scott and Alex, was handled vis-à-vis his dealings with the Shi'ar during the several well-written arcs in which he lashed out at just about everything and everyone. Vulcan is driven by a combination of pain and betrayal, and is the kind of character that seems doomed no matter what path of vengeance he takes. Yet for one whose life steadily advances towards both power and madness, he accomplishes much--but will it ever be enough to satiate him?

Vulcan is an omega-level mutant, and thus a formidable adversary for any force arrayed against him, be it a contingent of warships, the most powerful X-Men, or Thanos. Once he abandons Earth after facing the X-Men, he heads for Shi'ar space in order to take revenge for his mother's murder--and in so doing, begins to take shape as a character to be reckoned with.

We know the Shi'ar, of course, as being ruthless predators with a keen grasp of the facets of power; after all, one assumes that a race doesn't become an empire without being practiced in military campaigns as well as in retaining conquered worlds with a firm hand. In short, we can take for granted that the Shi'ar will act to crush any threat to either its sovereignty or its supremacy. Aggressive empires are generally built with the intent to expand the conqueror's sphere of influence while making it clear that uprisings will not be tolerated--so it goes without saying that Vulcan's approach will not go unchallenged. And given the tenacity of the Shi'ar, the challenge he faces seems unassailable.

Having fought his way through the Shi'ar's first line of defense--their attacking warships that patrol the outskirts of their empire--Vulcan commandeers one of those ships in order to make use of the Shi'ar network of stargates to shorten his journey to their homeworld. And to his credit, he almost makes it. But he's eventually intercepted by an elite group of warriors whose name describes their purpose--and on a dead moon, he's forced to make his stand, or see his mission of vengeance halted before even reaching his target.

This issue of Uncanny X-Men falls within a series of issues flagged "The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire," a story that follows writer Ed Brubaker's X-Men: Deadly Genesis series and which Brubaker has a bit more room here to expand on, as far as the fate of Vulcan and the pursuit of Charles Xavier (along with an interesting team of X-Men) are concerned. Vulcan shows a great deal of resourcefulness in his path to Shi'ar space, even using one of the Shi'ar ship captains to bring him up to speed on the state of affairs of the Shi'ar as well as what kind of resistance he can expect to meet. Unknown to him, however, the Shi'ar captain hasn't divulged all Vulcan needs to know about the Imperial Guard--and there are additional complications going on behind the scenes involving Shi'ar factions. It's an issue that reads quite well from cover to cover, and would probably still do so even if it were mainly focused on the Shi'ar level of intrigue rather than the pitched battle between Vulcan and the forces of the Guard.

As we can see, Vulcan seems to be doing the impossible. The odds are against him in this fight, yet his power appears to be sufficient to deal with a group whose reputation for putting down insurgents no doubt precedes it. And a telepathic attack only serves to make him angrier, given his history with Xavier:

Finally, Gladiator enters the fray, presumably kept at bay until now--either that, or kept in reserve, since he remains the Guard's powerhouse. And taking into account the Guard's casualties this day, Gladiator intends to do what he must to take Vulcan down:

What follows is a grim epilogue of Vulcan's attempt to take on an empire, ending as it must--in a dark cell on a prison moon, with no hope for either release or a future. And his only companions are the ghosts of his broken past, visions that represent a childhood he never truly had.

But to those of the Shi'ar who move against the empress, Lilandra, Vulcan represents an opportunity not to be wasted--and there is another resident of this high-security prison he's fated to meet who will stoke his ambition and satisfy his thirst for vengeance as well as her own. Vulcan's luck is about to change--and an empire might just be within his reach, after all.

Uncanny X-Men #480

Script: Ed Brubaker
Pencils: Clayton Henry
Inks: Mark Morales
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

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