the PYRE

Classification: Extraterrestrial (Skrullian) weapon of mass destruction

Creator: Unspecified Skrull scientists/engineers

User/Possessors: Emperor Kl'rt; "Emperor Dorrek VIII" (actually the supposedly-dead Empress R'Klll impersonating her grandson)

First Appearance: Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1 (August, 2019);
   (first mention of "The Pyre") Empyre#2 (September, 2020);
   (revelation that "The Pyre" was a weapon) Empyre#3 (September, 2020)

Powers/Abilities/Functions: The Pyre was a weapon designed by Skrull scientists to destroy stars. It functioned by injecting denser elements (like iron) into the core of the targeted star. Once these heavier elements had been teleported into the star's core, the increased density of the core would cause the fusion reaction powering the star to burn hotter and hotter, and thereby increase the star's core temperature. When the resulting energy buildup in the star's core reached a critical point, the star would detonate in an explosion that resembled those produced by supernovas, and the heat and radiation released would be enough to vaporize any planets that might have been orbiting that star. The entire sequence, from the triggering of the Pyre to the detonation of the star, would only take about ten minutes.

   The Pyre was constructed in the form of a large silvery sphere. In order to be deployed, the weapon had to be transported by a starship into close proximity to the target star and then released (or propelled) towards that star. Once it reached the surface it would begin to discharge energy into the star.

   Tendrils of energy connected the Pyre to the starship that transported and deployed it, and that energy connection remained at least until the Pyre reached the star's surface.

(Empyre#3 (fb) - BTS) - At some point in the past, Skrull scientists developed a weapon that could detonate stars by creating an energy buildup in their cores. However, since the Skrulls considered astronuclear war to be unthinkable among civilized races, they thought that they would never use such a weapon.

(Empyre#3 (fb) - BTS) - The Skrulls classified knowledge of the Pyre as restricted data.

(Empyre#2 (fb)) - As part of their secret crusade to eliminate all animal life, the Cotati known as the Celestial Messiah (Quoi) and his father (Swordsman) traveled to the Kral system where they conducted experiments meant to create a plant that could amplify Cotati magic and enable them to control all non-sentient plant life. They succeeded in creating a prototype of the Death Blossom and used it to kill a number of Kralians in an area where the Skrulls had adopted a Roman-type culture. However, the Cotati amplifier was not powerful enough to wipe out all of the Kralian Skrulls quickly enough to prevent the Skrull Empire from responding.

(Empyre#3 (fb) - BTS) - Skrull Emperor Kl'rt received intelligence reports about how Rome had fallen, Chicago (on Kral IV) had died, and even Glenbrook (Kral X) had discovered new genres of horror. Faced with the fact that all of the planets in the Kral System had either already been infected by what the Cotati had done or were doomed to be infected within a standard hour, Kl'rt concluded that the Kral System was essentially already dead. Wishing to give the victims of the Cotati a quick end and hoping that he might be able to finish the Cotati with a single blow, Kl'rt ordered that the weapon known as the Pyre be used to detonate the sun of the Kral System.

(Empyre#2 (fb) - BTS) - Unbeknownst to the Skrulls, the Cotati had secretly left the Kral System and traveled to a Kree world to continue their experiments long before the Skrulls were able to attack.

(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1/2 (fb) - BTS) - For security reasons, the Skrull High Command kept the real reason behind what it planned to do to the Kral System a secret and prepared to pull out of the Pan-Worlds Treaty just before their attack. Their cover story was that they had decided to "clean up" the Kral System because the subversive degenerates who lived there were weakening the empire.

(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1/2 (fb) - BTS) - Having somehow learned of what the Skrull High Command was planning for the Kral System, a rogue squad of five Skrull soldiers traveled to Kral-IV and began looting and killing, seeking to steal some treasure for themselves before the end came. The locals sent out an 8x8 alert to the Nova Corps and Nova Centurion Richard Rider responded.

(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1/2 (fb) - BTS) - The Skrull High Command activated the weapon that would cause the Kral sun to detonate and contacted the Nova Corps to announce that they were pulling out of the Pan-Worlds Treaty. They also informed Nova Commander Scott Adsit that Nova Centurion Rider should get off their world right away or he would "face immediate penalty."

(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1/2 (fb)) - On Kral-IV, Nova Centurion Rider faced off against the five rogue Skrull soldiers. Since civilian lives were in jeopardy, Rider offered them a final warning but had to use lethal force when they refused to surrender and prepared to open fire. When Rider contacted Nova Command to report, Adsit informed him of the warning from the Skrull High Command just before Adsit received another message advising that the Skrulls had already triggered the star-detonation process.

(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1/2 (fb)) - The Skrull weapon caused the Kral sun to detonate and the resulting nova-type explosion wiped out all of the planets in the Kral System.

(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1/2 (fb)) - Maybe ten thousand Kralians (including Bugface Brown, Prince Dezan and Boss Barker's boys) survived because they had already evacuated but everyone else burned except for Nova Centurion Rider who, protected by his Nova Force shielding, got to watch.

(Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1/2) <"Eight standard days later"> - In Tharg's Bar on the planet K'rii-3, Rider told Quasar (Wendell Vaughn) how "hardline Skrulls" had destroyed the Kral System and killed almost all of the Skrulls who had lived there.

(Empyre#2 - BTS) - Sometime later, during a confrontation in the Blue Area of Earth's Moon, the Cotati Quoi, known as the Celestial Messiah, revealed to the Avengers Captain America, Iron Man and Thor Odinson that the real reason why the Skrulls had resorted to such drastic and horrific measures in the Kral System was actually because they had been trying to stop the Cotati from growing there.
   Later, aboard the Kree/Skrull Alliance command ship, after Car-Ell Danvers had accepted a place in the Kree Accuser Corps, Tanalth the Pursuer made a speech that ended with the phrase, "Bring glory to Hala - - and to Earth as well - - should it survive the coming of The Pyre!" Emperor Dorrek didn't understand the reference and asked about what was coming, and Kl'rt replied, "The Pyre, my liege. The power and responsibility of the emperor. The death of a your hands." However, Kl'rt did not immediately explain what that meant.

(Empyre#3 - BTS) - Soon afterwards, Tanalth manipulated Kl'rt into revealing to Emperor Dorrek VIII that the Pyre was a Skrull weapon that could destroy solar systems by causing suns to detonate. Kl'rt then explained the reasons why he had ordered the Pyre to be used to destroy the sun of the Kral System, killing billions of people to save trillions more and hoping to finish the Cotati with one blow. Emperor Dorrek VIII responded by reminding Kl'rt that using the Pyre hadn't stopped the Cotati because they had completed their "practice run" in that system and had already been on their way to the Blue Area and Earth.

(Empyre#4 - BTS) - Aboard the Kree/Skrull Alliance command ship in orbit around Earth, Emperor Dorrek VIII (actually his grandmother R'Klll impersonating him) announced that he was ordering the deployment of the Pyre so that, if it became necessary, it could be used to detonate Earth's sun. Captain Marvel and the Human Torch did not react well to his statement and ended up being teleported away by the Alliance court magician Mur-G'nn who sent them to Teddy Altman's apartment where they met Billy Kaplan (Wiccan) and told him that his boyfriend wanted to blow up the Sun.

(Empyre#4 - BTS) - Johnny Storm contacted Reed Richards in Avengers Mountain to let him know that the emperor was willing to allow the use of the sun-detonating weapon if the Cotati could not be stopped in Wakanda. Richards then relayed the information, first to Tony Stark who was with him in Avengers Mountain and then to the Black Panther who was fighting against the Cotati in Wakanda.

(Empyre#4 - BTS) - Near Lake Victoria in Tanzania, the Celestial Messiah and the Cotati Swordsman were confronted by Mantis, the Invisible Woman, She-Hulk and the Thing. Mantis tried to reason with her son and convince him to stop his planned genocide but Quoi was unimpressed by her words and reminded her that the Skrulls had blown up the sun in the Kral system and burned ten worlds alive, and then asked her how, if the Alliance was planning to blow up another sun, he was the evil one and not this world's savior? The Invisible Woman stated that no one had done anything yet and that they could still talk this out, but She-Hulk interrupted her, revealing that the Kree/Skrull Alliance had already deployed the Pyre and that more talk would only give them time to use it, then urged Quoi to press his attack immediately. When a shocked Thing asked her whose side she was on, She-Hulk unleashed a gamma blast that scattered the Terrans before revealing that "she" was actually a Cotati who had been wearing She-Hulk's body ever since she had secretly been killed by the Cotati.

(Empyre#5 (fb) - BTS) - At some point after the Terran heroes had been sent away, "Emperor Dorrek VIII" activated the Pyre.

(Empyre#5 (fb) - BTS) - Wiccan used his powers to transport himself, Captain Marvel and the Human Torch to the brig of the Kree/Skrull Alliance flagship where they found the real Hulkling and freed him from his cell but not from the Skrull Inhibitor Mask that had been locked onto him.

(Empyre#5 - BTS) - Wiccan used his powers to transport himself, Captain Marvel, the Human Torch and the real emperor to the bridge of the Kree/Skrull Alliance flagship to expose the imposter before the Royal Guard. However, when Captain Marvel threatened to use the Universal Weapon on the false emperor if he attempted to trigger the sun-detonating weapon, the imposter revealed that he had already triggered the Pyre and that the core temperature of the Sun was already rising.

   Soon afterwards, Reed Richards and Tony Stark received some interesting satellite data, from Earth and from the surface of the Sun, that indicated that a Cotati Death Blossom was flowering in Wakanda and would be fully activated in ten minutes while the solar readings showed that the Sun would explode sometime in the next nine minutes.

(Empyre#6 - BTS) - The effect of the Pyre caused the fusion reaction inside the Sun to go into overdrive. With less than eight minutes left before the Sun was going to explode, Tony Stark assured Reed Richards that he would be able to fix the Sun by putting it in a suit.
   Meanwhile, as the Dark Harvest assassins serving the Cotati used a hate ray to try to tear the Kree/Skrull Alliance apart, the real Emperor Dorrek VIII asked Wiccan to transport the Human Torch and Captain Marvel to the Sun so that they could use the Torch's ability to control all flame and Marvel's ability to absorb energy in an attempt to tame the exploding Sun. The trio did as he asked and began to try to save the world.

(Empyre#6 - BTS) - Once the hate ray had been counteracted and the Kree Captain Gla-Ree had revealed that the Dorrek imposter was actually Empress R'Klll, the real emperor asked Mur-G'nn to teleport herself, Gla-Ree and Kl'rt to the Sun to help Wiccan and the others try to save the Sun while he stayed on the flagship to deal with the pretender.

   Meanwhile, in Avengers Mountain, Tony Stark talked to himself about how the Pyre must work by teleporting iron into the Sun's core to make its fusion reaction burn hotter due to the increased density. He then disassembled Reed's Fantastic Four uniform in order to use the "unstable molecules" that were designed to adapt even to nova heat. As Mur-G'nn, Gla-Ree and Kl'rt arrived at the Sun just in time to support the Human Torch and Captain Marvel who could no longer hold back the power on their own anymore, Stark reprogrammed the unstable molecules (like nanomachines) to replicate and then attack the denser elements in the Sun until balance was restored, then teleported those molecules into the Sun's core.

   Once in the core, the reprogrammed unstable molecules acted quickly and the Sun's core soon began to cool back down.

(Empyre#6 - VO) - With the core no longer heating up towards an explosion, the Pyre sent an audio signal back to the Alliance flagship:      Overflow error. Cannot complete detonation protocol. Pyre offline.

(Empyre#6) - Empress R'Klll did not react well to this development, believing that destroying Earth would have proven her grandson's strength and forged the Kree/Skrull Alliance in fire, but Teddy disagreed and, after her rash attack on him had knocked the Inhibitor Mask off his head, he used the mask on her, trapping her in her true form.

   Fortunately for the galaxy, the Black Panther was (just barely) able to use the star-sword to destroy the Death Blossom before the Cotati could use it to kill all animal life in the galaxy.

(Empyre: Aftermath Avengers#1 - BTS) - Emperor Dorrek VIII condemned Kl'rt for triggering the Pyre in the Kral System because he took millions of lives as if it had been strategy. When Kl'rt expressed his willingness to be executed, the emperor refused to allow him to receive a warrior's death. Instead, he ordered Kl'rt to live with his shame and transferred him to diplomatic service so that he would spend the rest of his life making peace and preventing needless death instead of causing it.

(Guardians of the Galaxy VII#7 - BTS) - At the first meeting of the Galactic Powers since the formation of the Kree/Skrull Alliance, Noh-Varr, the diplomat representing the Utopian Kree, spoke of his faction's concerns about weapons proliferation, especially astro-nuclear weapons that resulted from the weaponization of suns. Noh-Varr then questioned Kl'rt, the first diplomat for the Kree/Skrull Alliance, about a weapon called the Pyre that blew up suns and asked him to answer, true of false, if he had wanted to use it on Earth's Sun. Kl'rt chose the words of his reply carefully and sidestepped the question by stating that those had clearly not been the orders of Emperor Dorrek VIII who, as he reminded the others, had been raised on Earth and his friends and his husband were all Earthers.

(Guardians of the Galaxy VII#7 (fb) - BTS) - The representatives subsequently voted in favor of a motion that all Pan-Worlds treaties remain in force, unmodified and applying to all present, and that the Kree/Skrull Alliance would consent to the decommissioning of all forbidden weaponry and to inspections from neutral parties.

Comments: Created by Al Ewing and Yildiray Cinar.

   When I first began this profile, no details had yet been provided as to exactly HOW the Pyre was able to cause stars to detonate so this is what I wrote in the Powers/Abilities/Functions section:

   The exact details of the process which the Pyre can use to "detonate" the cores of stars has not been revealed and remains somewhat puzzling. As far as is known, supernova-type explosions occur in only two ways: either runaway nuclear fusion is triggered within a degenerate star (like a white dwarf) or a massive amount of gravitational potential energy is released by the sudden collapse of the core of a massive star. Since the Kral sun was a normal Sun-like star, neither a white dwarf or a massive star, it should not have been possible for either of these two natural processes to have been stimulated to cause it to detonate.

   Well, in Empyre#6, while talking to himself, Tony Stark revealed his theory about how the Pyre "must work" and the fact that his solution was able to fix the Sun would seem to prove that he was correct. Accordingly, I have now included that information into my profile. Unfortunately, Stark's idea about how the Pyre affected the Sun is not consistent with how the cores of stars in the real world function and that makes his solution, well, NONSENSICAL.

   Before I continue, I would like to stress that I am not an astrophysicist and have only the most basic knowledge of how stars generate their energy (i.e., by fusing lighter elements into heavier elements in their cores). However, a few months ago I found a video on YouTube from 2015 that was entitled, "Can You Kill A Star With Iron? Why Iron Isn't Poison to Stars" by Fraser Cain from the Universe Today website. He had asked viewers to send him their suggestions as to how the Sun could be killed and many of them had proposed that adding a lot of iron to the core would do so. Cain used the video to explain why that plan had no chance of working. For those of you who would like to watch that video for yourselves, click this link here. Or you could read the following section in which I paraphrase some of what was said in that video.

   Tony Stark was not incorrect when he stated that "The fusion reaction powering suns burns hot or cold depending on the density of elements at the core." A greater density means more mass per volume and more mass means a greater gravitational pull is exerted on the outer layers of a star which causes the core to be subjected to a higher pressure which causes the temperature of the core to increase which causes the fusion reaction taking place within it to do so more rapidly. This additional mass might shorten a star's life slightly (by causing it to run out of fuel more quickly) but it absolutely wouldn't cause that star to explode.

   Iron is involved in core collapse supernovas because it's the lowest element on the periodic table which requires more energy to be used in fusing it than the energy that is released by fusing it. However, its presence is only one of three factors that would ALL have to be present for any star to explode. The second factor would be an absence of any lighter element in the core that could be used to generate energy from fusion. As long as there is any viable fuel in a star's core, that star would fuse it to generate energy, no matter how much iron was present. The Sun is currently about 0.1% iron, equal to about 330 times Earth's mass, and that iron is not "killing" it.

   The third factor is the initial mass of the star. The cores of stars whose initial masses are less than eight times that of the Sun will NEVER become hot enough (at least, not naturally) to fuse iron. This means that the fusion reaction that sustains these lower mass stars will not suddenly shut off, causing the cores to collapse into either neutron stars or black holes, and the outer layers of the stars will not be blown away by the massive numbers of neutrinos generated by these collapses, resulting in the violent explosions known as Type II supernovas. If the entire core of the Sun could be magically exchanged for one made of iron, then that would kill the Sun (because the fusion process would immediately stop) but it wouldn't explode, it would just become a white dwarf. This would presumably also be the fate of the Sun if someone were able to transmute the entire core into iron (instead of exchanging it) by artificially causing the core to experience the extreme temperatures and pressures that would be required.

So, to summarize, the "real world" stellar physics states that:
1. Only stars whose initial masses are at least eight times that of the Sun could ever become Type II supernovas.
2. The cores of lower mass stars (like the Sun) can never become hot enough for iron fusion to occur and so the addition of extra iron from outside sources would absolutely not cause such stars to explode.
3. And if the added iron could not be the cause of the Sun's imminent explosion, then using nanomachines to convert that extra iron into less dense elements should not have affected whatever was really causing the Sun to explode.

   All in all, this is a somewhat disappointing conclusion to the story of the Pyre. I mean, I had known about the minimum mass needed for a star to become a supernova before I read the story in Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1 so I was aware that it shouldn't have been possible for anything to cause a Sun-like star like Kral to explode. However, I was also aware that there were certain items in the Marvel Universe that could, through unexplained means, somehow cause such impossible explosions to occur so I was prepared to accept that the Pyre might be another such item and that it functioned in some technobabble way that was beyond "real world" astrophysics. Unfortunately, by trying to introduce "real world" concepts into the Marvel Universe and doing so without properly understanding them, writers Al Ewing and Dan Slott have only succeeded in removing any possibility that some as-yet-unexplained MU physics enabled the Pyre to detonate stars, thereby leaving us with only Tony Stark's unworkable theory to describe how the Pyre carried out its function. To put it another way, the Pyre is now like Gigantus, a world that was said to dwarf whole galaxies in size, something that is impossible according to the laws of physics.

   So, if the Pyre couldn't actually destroy a star, what type of weapon could? Well, a star generates energy through nuclear fusion at its core. The gravitational pull of its mass exerts an inward force that creates temperatures and pressures in its core that are high enough to cause lighter elements (like hydrogen) to fuse into heavier elements (like helium). The energy generated by this nuclear fusion process is released as photons which push outward and counteract the force of gravity trying to pull everything inward. The star will remain "alive" as long as it can generate the light pressure needed to hold back its outer layers and will "die" once it no longer has any fuel in its core that can be fused. Once fusion is no longer possible, lower mass stars (like the Sun) become white dwarfs while higher mass stars explode as supernovas and become either neutron stars or black holes.

   This reverse tug-of-war between a star's inward and outward pressure is its weak point so perhaps disrupting this equilibrium could cause a premature death? This could be accomplished either by stopping the nuclear fusion processes within the star's core or by canceling out the effect of its own gravity. A star that was no longer able to fuse material within its core would die but would not explode unless it was at least 8 times as massive as the Sun. However, if the force of gravity that held the star together could somehow be negated, then that would leave only the outward light pressure to act on the gases that made up its substance. Would this be enough to cause the star to explode like a nova? I don't know but the writers for the television series Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda thought it would. The ultimate weapons in that series were Nova Bombs that functioned by temporarily destabilizing a star's gravity and triggering a runaway fusion reaction that would disperse the hydrogen gas undergoing fusion in all directions, destroying everything in its path.

   Of course, the problem with these two methods, aside from the possibility that they may not actually act to "detonate" a star, is the fact that they would be irreversible. Once the nuclear fusion was stopped or the gravity was negated, the star would be doomed and there would be nothing that Tony Stark or anyone else could do to save it. This makes any effective means of detonating a star useless for the purposes of a story in which the heroes need to save the Sun. Maybe that's why Ewing and Slott went with the whole "adding iron will kill a star" idea, despite the fact that it is scientifically inaccurate.

   The idea that a star could be caused to explode in only ten minutes seems ridiculously fast. However, astrophysicists believe that when a massive star's core reaches the temperatures and pressures needed to fuse silicon, it will fuse all of its silicon into iron in about one day, and when the iron core shrinks and heats up enough for iron fusion to begin, it will take only a fraction of a second before the absorption of energy causes the contraction to accelerate until it become a collapse in which the outer parts of the core crash down on the inner parts at about one-quarter the speed of light. This collapse occurs in only a few thousandths of a second, and the core becomes either a neutron star or a black hole.

Profile by Donald Campbell.

The Pyre has no known connections to:

images: (without ads)
Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1, page 6, panel 5 (main image)
      page 7, panel 4 (activated)
      page 8, panel 1 (effect)

Guardians of the Galaxy Annual III#1/2 (August, 2019) - Al Ewing (writer), Yildiray Cinar (artist), Darren Shan (editor)
Empyre#2-6 (September - November, 2020) - Al Ewing & Dan Slott (story), Al Ewing (script), Valerio Schiti (artist), Tom Brevoort (editor)
Guardians of the Galaxy VII#7 (December, 2020) - Al Ewing (script), Marcio Takara (artist), Darren Shan & Mark Basso (editors)

First Posted: 11/08/2020
Last updated: 11/08/2020

Any Additions/Corrections? please let me know.

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