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Comic Book / Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire

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Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire is an X-Men storyline which ran from September, 2006 to July, 2007. Written by Ed Brubaker, the story is told in 12 parts across Uncanny X-Men #475 to #486.

The story is a continuation of the events of X-Men: Deadly Genesis. In that story, it was revealed that Vulcan aka Gabriel Summers, the long lost brother of Cyclops and Havok, had served on an unknown team of X-Men who perished during an attempted rescue mission of the original five X-Men from Krakoa before Xavier recruited the "All-New, All-Different" team for that purpose. Two of Gabriel's teammates perished and Xavier erased Gabriel from Scott's memories to protect them from the truth. Gabriel also learned that he was a slave of the Shi'ar Empire and his mother had been killed by the Shi'ar monarch D'Ken. With this knowledge, Gabriel flew into space with the intention of revenge against the Shi'ar.

Fearing the danger Gabriel poses to anyone in his way, Xavier forms a team consisting of himself, Havok, Warpath, Nightcrawler, Polaris, Rachel Summers and Gabriel's only surviving teammate Darwin to stop him.

The story continues in the mini-series X-Men: Emperor Vulcan (2007-2008).

Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire contains examples of:

  • The Atoner: Xavier's team, with the exception of Nightcrawler and Darwin, consist of people who have done bad things in the past but are willing to atone for it. Havok and Polaris have both been Brainwashed and Crazy at least once, Warpath originally attacked Xavier, wrongfully blaming him for his brother's death, Rachel captured and killed Mutants in the Bad Future she was from and Xavier is partly responsible for Gabriel's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Ancestral Weapon: The Phoenix Blade is a sword which once belonged to a Shi'ar named Rook'shir who served as a Phoenix Force host. It contains a small remnant of the Phoenix's power and can only be used by member of Rook'shir's bloodline. As the last surviving member of Rook'shir's bloodline, Korvus is the only person in the universe who can wield it.
  • And I Must Scream: D'Ken, who last seen all the way back in the early days of Claremont's run, has been in a permanent vegetative state. The conspiracy have been trying to get telepaths to wake him up, but even the slightest contact with his mind fries their brains. He is finally awakened by Vulcan.
  • Art Shift: The artist is Phillip Tan for most of the story, except the early chapters about what Vulcan's been doing, which instead have Clayton Henry on art duty.
  • Back for the Dead: After thirty years on the bus, D'Ken returns partway through the story. Then Vulcan deep fries him.
  • Battle Couple: Havok and Polaris on the heroes' side. Gabriel and Deathbird on the villains' side.
  • BFS: The Phoenix Blade is abnormally large yet Corvus is able to carry it with ease. As he tells Rachel, "For any hand but mine, it would be easier to lift a star, Raza. But to me it has no weight at all.".
  • Birds of a Feather: Rachel and Korvus. Both wield the power of the Phoenix Force and both had their families murdered by the Shi'ar in a needlessly brutal fashion in order to wipe out potential Phoenix hosts.
  • Blood Knight: Warpath has a very enthusiastic approach to fighting.
  • The Bus Came Back: Deathbird returns after having been last seen getting thrown out of an airlock by Bishop some years ago.
  • Cain and Abel:
    • Havok and Vulcan.
    • Lilandra, Deathbird and D'Ken. Deathbird's no more fond of D'Ken than she is of Lil, but he's more popular with the people, and she's not terribly interested in running an empire anymore.
  • Clothing Damage: Corvus's approach causes the Phoenix brand on Rachel's back to flare up, shredding her clothing.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Xavier is subjected to this while in the Shi'ar's captivity.
  • Continuity Nod: Early on in the story, the team passes through a Shi'ar space-station where they hear some vague mentions of the events of Annihilation, which had been going on in the other parts of the universe.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Gabriel steamrolls virtually all his opponents with contemptible ease. The only people shown capable of giving him a decent challenge, let alone beating him are Gladiator and Polaris.
  • Death Seeker:
    • Part 2 has the X-Men enter an abandoned Shi'ar base on Earth. They are attacked by Shi'ar Imperial Shockers who are tasked with defending the base from intruders. Rachel reads their minds and discovers that they are prisoners who were experimented on by the Shi'ar and subconsciously want to die.
    • After Vulcan kills Corsair, Hepzibah tries to attack him. Warpath holds her back, telling her that she has no chance against Vulcan. Hepzibah replies that she doesn't care, suggesting she is either suicidal due to Corsair's death or is simply too angry to realize the error of trying to take on Vulcan.
  • Dual Wield: Warpath fights using a pair of vibranium knives gifted to him by Storm.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Lilandra's reaction to Araki betraying her.
  • Exploited Immunity: Darwin kills one of the Shi'ar Imperial Shockers by tackling him through a window. Thanks to Darwin's Adaptive Ability, he survives while the Imperial Shocker dies.
  • Eye Scream: Gladiator manages to punch out one of Vulcan's eyes. It sticks, despite Gabriel's healing factor, and will remain as such right up until his death in War of Kings.
  • Family Extermination: Corvus is the last of his family, just as Rachel is the last Gray, for the same reasons. It's just that one Evil Chancellor figured keeping someone who can wield that very big sword alive might one day be useful.
  • Fanservice: Rachel's outfits show her midriff and she gets a Toplessness from the Back scene in part 7. Part 10 also features a scene where Hepzibah dances on a table.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: An anti-Lilandra conspiracy in the Shi'ar release Vulcan because they figure he can help their cause, preferably by killing her in his rampage. This winds up with Vulcan killing D'Ken and seizing control of the empire. Oops.
  • Hero Killer: Vulcan wounds and kills several members of the Imperial Guard during their tussle. He also kills Corsair.
  • I Choose to Stay: At the end, Havok, Polaris and Rachel stay in Shi'ar space to fight Vulcan, figuring if they don't stop him, he'll go after Earth sooner or later.
  • Implacable Man: Gladiator, natch. Vulcan, an Omega level energy caster, pours everything he can on him, but Gladiator's in such a state of Unstoppable Rage it does nothing.
  • Knight Templar: The story begins with the X-Men rescuing Polaris from an anti-Apocalypse group, who are hunting her for having some of his tech in her after the whole Horseman stint in "Blood of Apocalypse". The idea she's not killing them because she doesn't want to kill them doesn't register. She's an agent of Apocalypse, and in their mind, that means she deserves to die.
  • Loophole Abuse: There's an old Shi'ar law that states anyone born in the royal palace can technically count as royalty. And Gabriel was sort-of, kind-of born there. D'Ken admits it's hyper-technical, but if it lets Gabe and Cal'syee get married, the heck.
  • Mercy Kill: Warpath views killing the Shi'ar Imperial Shockers - who already have a subconscious death wish - as an act of mercy.
  • Omniglot: A benefit of Darwin's powers is he can learn languages quickly.
  • Pet the Dog: When Xavier and Darwin are captured, Vulcan makes the choice to spare Darwin as he is the closest thing to a friend he has left. Darwin isn't very grateful given the magnitude of Vulcan's crimes.
  • Precision F-Strike: An angry Gladiator refers to Vulcan as a "bastard" during his tussle with the Imperial Guard, when most swearing in comics tends to be Symbol Swearing.
  • Re-Power: Xavier's telepathy, which he had lost during M-Day, is restored after he is thrown into the M'Kaan Crystal.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Vulcan cuts a bloody path across space to make D'Ken pay for his crimes against him.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Vulcan murders Corsair for opposing him.
  • Shoo the Dog: In the final battle, Lilandra rigs up a ship so that it sends the X-Men back to Earth, so they won't get killed.
  • Shoot the Mage First: The Shi'ar Imperial Shockers incapacitate Polaris first since her magnetism powers pose the biggest threat to their cyborg bodies.
  • Swiss-Army Superpower: Vulcan is able to use his energy manipulation powers to connect the three parts of D'Ken's brain and wake him from his coma. He can also communicate in space with people despite having no commlink by translating energy signals into audio.
  • Sympathetic Murderer: Vulcan is not a good person but his murder of D'Ken - the man who murdered his mother, made him a slave, sought to return the Shi'ar back to their brutal, expansionist ways - is pretty understandable if not justified.
  • Thou Shalt Not Kill: Averted. The X-Men normally avoid lethal force but the story puts them in situations where they have to resort to killing as an option. Warpath kills two cyborgs who attacked them with lethal intent and who subconsciously wanted to die anyway. Rachel kills Shi'ar troops who attack them and justifies her actions by pointing out that they are at war. And by the end, the Starjammers decide that Gabriel is too dangerous to be left alive.
  • Toplessness from the Back: Rachel in part 7.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The X-Men save two Shi'ar from a team of War Skrulls. The Shi'ar have no issue turning Xavier over to their superiors to be imprisoned and tortured.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Vulcan and Deathbird get married in part 11 in a wedding ceremony which features an attempted execution of Xavier.
  • Vague Age: Thanks to Comic-Book Time and death, actually determining Vulcan's age is fuzzy - his issues draw him as looking like a teenager, though. At one point, a hallucination of his child self even tries to work out the math for him.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Vulcan's got a fear of the dark, thanks to the years spent stuck inside Krakoa when it was thrown into space. The Imperial Guard try exploiting this, but hitting the Trauma Button of a psychopath with energy powers... doesn't work.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Vulcan kills D'Ken, and since he's now married to Deathbird names himself emperor of the Shi'ar.
  • You Killed My Father: Why Vulcan fries D'Ken.