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The Shi'ar, are a species of aliens in the Marvel Comics universe. The Shi'ar Empire (or Imperium) also called the Aerie, is a vast collection of alien species, cultures and worlds situated close to the Skrull and Kree Empires, and alongside them, is one of the three main alien empires (and the most powerful one) of the Marvel Universe. Their first appearance was in X-Men vol. 1 #97 (February 1976). They were created by writer Chris Claremont and artist Dave Cockrum.
The Shi'ar are humanoids of avian descent; they resemble humans with feathered crests atop their heads in lieu of hair. Two different styles are common; Most Shi'ar, particularly those of the aristocracy, have feathers sprouting in a triangular shape away from the face, one peak on the top of the head and one peak on each side slightly over the shoulder. The other commonly seen "hair"style is bushy on both sides and very flat on the top.
Internally, they have light hollow bones, and on their forearms there are still some vestigial feathers left of wings that were lost over millions of years of evolution. The average Shi'ar can lift 1 ton in earth-like gravity and has far greater stamina. Most Shi'ar have no other special abilities, though some are genetic throwbacks. These individuals possess wings which allow them to fly.
The Shi'ar conceive their offspring in eggs. They are nurtured in special chambers and the children are referred to as hatchlings.
The Shi'ar possess technologies common to most Marvel alien races, including:
- faster than light capable starships
- energy-based weapons in their ships and in their handheld weapons
- force fields
- faster than light communication
- teleportation technology
The Shi'ar also possess technologies fairly unique to them, including:
- Hologram technology: which is used by the X-Men in their Danger Room.
- Cloaking technology: rendering a craft completely invisible, used by the X-Men on their Blackbird aircraft.
- Stargates: Devices in a network system. They are used for travel to faraway distances. There are planet-based Stargates (used for personal travel) and enormous space-based versions (used for starships to travel through).
- Starcracker technology: This is the Shi'ar ultimate weapon. The Starcracker causes stars to go supernova.
According to a statement by Emma Frost in The Astonishing X-Men #9, most if not all Shi'ar technology is sentient.
Traditionally, the Imperium has aggressively absorbed new cultures. Warren Ellis' 1995 Starjammers limited series described the story of the Shi'ar deities Sharra and K'ythri as a parable which guides the Shi'ar expansionist philosophy to other worlds:
"Sharra and K'ythri are the gods in marriage. The Gods who didn't want to marry, but were forced into it. In marriage they found strength and in strength they found love. That's what the Shi'ar Imperium does. It marries other cultures. Shotgun weddings."
There are aggressive and violent ancient traditions, such as the Rite of Arin'nn Haelar, which is a battle to the death. This rite can be invoked to settle disagreements and their outcomes are accepted by the Imperium.
X-Men writer Ed Brubaker compared the Shi'ar to Star Trek's Romulans, saying they are both "smart, aggressive, and mean".
Though the empire has grown to include hundreds of thousands of different sentient species and worlds, the Shi'ar race controls and governs the empire. Its central base of power is located on the "throneworld" Chandilar, while the Shi’ar homeworld is called Aerie (it is unknown if the planet still exists). The leader of the empire is given the title Majestor (male) or Majestrix (female) and is a hereditary position, occupied by members of the royal family of the Shi'ar. Currently, the Neramani family represents the royal bloodline.
The Shi'ar Empire is one of the most advanced and expansive civilizations in the universe, spanning entire galaxies. It is mainly an economic co-operative, where trade with other galactic powers is its driving force. Not all races have the same rights in the Imperium, as the Shi’ar appear to have a disproportionate influence on its governance.
It is nominally ruled over by a high council, which has representatives from a large majority of the alien races that exist within the Imperium. However, in practice, the head of the council (the Majestor or Majestrix) exercises strong executive control and can institute policy virtually by decree.
The leader of the empire is protected by his or her own personal guard, the Imperial Guard, which is made up of the most powerful and elite soldiers from throughout the Empire, and led by a praetor. The military itself (outside of the Imperial Guard) has been depicted as consisting almost exclusively of Shi'ar personnel, at least in most of the command positions.
Though having warlike and militaristic ancestry, the Shi'ar Empire has largely occupied the role of peacekeepers in many interstellar affairs. Just to name a few, Empress Lilandra Neramani tried to broker peace between the Kree Empire and the Skrull Empire to help bring an end to their devastating war, she sought interstellar accord when deciding how to end the threat of the Dark Phoenix, and attempted to avenge the destruction of Tarnax IV, the Skrull throneworld, by Galactus.
However, it should also be noted that Empress Lilandra was personally responsible for authorizing the use of the Nega-bomb weapon, devastating the Kree Empire during Operation: Galactic Storm, and that the Shi’ar were pivotal in the invasion and containment of Earth during the Maximum Security event. One of the latest atrocities committed by the Shi’ar was ordering the extermination of Jean Grey’s family, in an effort to quell any future conflicts with the Phoenix entity.
Trial of Galactus
The Shi'ar put Reed Richards on trial for the crimes of genocide. He was guilty of reviving Galactus after he was defeated on Earth. Shortly after his revival, Galactus proceeded to consume the Skrull throneworld, resulting in the death of billions. Uatu the Watcher, acting as his lawyer and with the help of Odin and Galactus himself, convinced the gathered tribunal that Galactus is a necessary force of betterment of the universe, not a villain. This was done by summoning Eternity. The truth as shown by Eternity however, is so grand and overpowering that none of the tribunal's members can remember it fully, although the comprehension stays.
Main article: Dark Phoenix Saga
D'Ken Neramani, a corrupt Shi'ar ruler, attempted to use the powerful M'Kraan Crystal to take over the universe. His younger sister Lilandra and her new allies, the X-Men, foiled his plans. He was rendered comatose by the crystal, and Lilandra then took over as the Majestrix of the Shi'ar Empire. The X-Men, as well as most of Earth's other superheroes, have had cordial if not friendly relations with the Shi'ar Empire ever since.
Deathbird, the Kree-Shi'ar War, and the Spartoi
In the 1980s, Lilandra and D'Ken's unstable exiled elder sibling, Deathbird, made several attempts to overthrow her sister from power. Deathbird even resorted to attacking Lilandra's Earth-based allies in order to achieve her goals. She is also responsible for initially directing the alien parasites known as the Brood towards the Earth and its heroes. Deathbird was eventually deposed with the assistance of the X-Men.
In the 1992 crossover Operation: Galactic Storm, the Shi'ar annexed the Kree Empire at the end of the Kree-Shi'ar War and Deathbird was placed into a prominent position as viceroy of Hala, the Kree homeworld. However, Deathbird did not last long in this position and the current status of the Kree territories is unclear.
The Shi'ar have had recent contact with the Spartoi, described as an equally advanced distant race, noted for Star-Lord's citizenship.
Professor Xavier's evil twin sister, Cassandra Nova, single-handedly destroys a good portion of the Shi'ar Empire. Inhabiting the body of her brother, Nova asserts control of Empress Lilandra and causes a Shi'ar civil war. Jean Grey is instrumental in ending this threat.
Phoenix Endsong & End of Greys
Even though Jean Grey did the Shi'ar a big favor by eliminating the threat of Cassandra Nova, the Shi'ar still want her dead. In the Phoenix Endsong series, a group of Shi'ar tried to permanently kill the Phoenix Force and Jean Grey. Jean, however, escaped their suicide bomb attack and returned to the White Hot Room to restore herself. In the recent "End of Greys" story arc, the Shi'ar wanted to wipe out the Grey genome and Quentin Quire with the purpose of eliminating the possibility of a new Omega-level mutant becoming a host for the Phoenix Force. The Shi'ar Death Commandos murdered Jean Grey's father, niece, nephew, and other relatives in an alien invasion on Earth, thus inciting the wrath of Jean's daughter Rachel Summers, who has vowed vengeance on the entire Shi'ar Empire. Recent events seem to indicate the Shi'ar Council was responsible for this, and that Lilandra is unaware of what has been done in her name.
Fall of the Shi'ar
Another Shi’ar threat comes from an X-Men villain called Vulcan. During his tenure as majestor of the empire, D'Ken killed Vulcan's mother Katherine Summers (also mother to long time X-Men Scott and Alex Summers) and made him a slave for most of his adolescent life. Bent on revenge against D'Ken, Vulcan attacks the Empire. Not only that, but within the empire, there is a coup to dethrone Lilandra and return D'Ken to power, with the aid of Deathbird. The X-Men once again team up with their space allies, the Starjammers, to stop both Vulcan and the plot to return rulership of the empire to D'Ken. In the end, Vulcan kills his father, Corsair, and D'Ken, and assumes the throne of the Shi'ar Empire for himself, with Deathbird as his queen; Lilandra and the Starjammers now lead a resistance against Vulcan's rule. This occurs in a 12 issue arc entitled "The Rise and Fall of the Shi’ar Empire" (starting in Uncanny X-Men #475)
The civil war between Vulcan's forces and those loyal the dethroned Lilandra rages on. Led by Havok and the Starjammers, Lilandra's forces gradually whittle away at Vulcan's forces, which are plagued by defections. The Shi'ar, contrary to Vulcan's expectations, are not happy to have an outsider as their ruler. Vulcan is discouraged by this, but Deathbird convinces him that they will come to accept him.
Warned in advance of a rebel raid on Feather's Edge, Vulcan and his fleet ambush the Starjammers. However, in the middle of the battle, his ship, the Hammer, is destroyed by the Scy'ar Tal (translates as "Death to the Shi'ar"). Vulcan and Gladiator (still the praetor of his Imperial Guard) attack the leader of the Scy'ar Tal and are easily defeated, whereupon they retreat deeper into Shi'ar space.
Marvel Girl makes contact with the Eldest Scy'ar Tal and discovers their true origin. The Scy'ar Tal were originally called the M'Kraan. Early in their history, the Shi'ar attacked them, killed a great number of their people, making the rest flee for their lives. Eventually, the Shi'ar settled on their planet, took the M'Kraan Crystal as their own, and passed down the legend of the M'Kraan Crystal as a sacred gift from their deities, Sharra & K'ythri. The M'Kraan then changed their name to Scy'ar Tal and devoted their culture and society to the destruction of the Shi'ar Empire. With their first attack, they destroyed Feather's Edge by transporting a star to obliterate it. After which, Vulcan makes contact with the Starjammers to call a temporary ceasefire.
Under the ceasefire, the Shi'ar and the Starjammers decide to take out the Finality, thus crippling the Scy'ar's biggest threat. Once Havok and Vulcan are in position to destroy Finality, the Eldest Scy'ar trys to stop them. Once Vulcan figures out how the Eldest is powered, he severs the connection Eldest has with his brothers, making him powerless. Once the connection is severed, the Scy'ar become unorganized, and the tide of the battle shifts to the Shi`ar. The Shi'ar then proceed to attack both the Scy'ar and the Starjammers. Meanwhile, Vulcan blasts Havok into a sun.
Vulcan decides to use Finality to destroy the Scy'ar by using the weapon to place a star in the middle of their fleet. Alex returns and, having absorbed enough power to burn him, decides to end things with Vulcan. While they battle, Rachael and Korvus try, but fail to stop the beacon that will initiate the attack by the Shi'ar. The Shi'ar Imperial Guard end Alex's battle with Vulcan by appearing with the Starjammers in captivity, threatening to kill them. Before surrendering, Alex destroys Finality. With Alex and the Starjammers in custody Vulcan declares that he will return the Shi'ar Empire to its former glory.
Vulcan and the Shi'ar will be featured prominently in the upcoming mini-serie X-Men: Kingbreaker that will be revolving around Vulcan and the Starjammers following the conclusion of the mini-series Emperor Vulcan. This mini-serie will also lead to the War of Kings event.
War of Kings
The story will revolve around the Starjammers, the Shi'ar, the Inhumans, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Nova.
In the Ultimate Marvel universe, the Shi'ar are not an alien race, but a religious group whose beliefs are said to have descended from alien knowledge. They worship the Phoenix, believing it to be a God of, not only destruction, but renewal (similar to the Shiva). Their beliefs state that all of the Earth was originally a prison to hold the Phoenix, but its presence at the core led to the creation of life on Earth, and the Phoenix's direct influence resulted in all major steps of evolution for man, and specifically, led to the creation of Mutants. The Ultimate version of the Hellfire Club is an off-shoot of the Shi'ar religion that believes the Phoenix only desires destruction.
Recently an alternate version of the Lilandra character has turned up in the Ultimate Marvel universe's Ultimate X-Men title. Ultimate Lilandra is not an alien, but the Majestrix of the Church of Shi'ar Enlightement, and contacts Professor Xavier with the offer of funding his school's immense budget, in exchange for the chance to see if Jean Grey is the human host for The Phoenix.
Age of Apocalypse
In the Age of Apocalypse the Shi'ar Empire was almost decimated by the Brood.
Last Planet Standing
In Last Planet Standing, a limited series set in the alternate timeline known as MC2, the Shi'ar homeworld is destroyed by Galactus.
The Shi'ar Empire appear in the 1990's X-Men TV series, the first appearance being part of the Phoenix Saga, with other appearances later, including the Dark Phoenix Saga.
In Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, a Shi'ar warship is a location when the heroes head to obtain an M'Kraan Crystal.