Waiting For The Trade – Realm of Kings HC

Writers: Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, Scott Reed
Pencillers: Wellinton Alves, Mahmud A. Asrar, Leonardo Manco, Miguel Munera, Pablo Raimondi, Tim Seeley, Kev Walker
Inkers: Mahmud A. Asrar, Andrew Hennessy, Leonardo Manco, Victor Olazaba, Terry Pallot, Nelson Pereira, Pablo Raimondi, Kev Walker
Colourists: Nathan Fairbairn, Veronica Gandini, Bruno Hang, Adriano Lucas
Letterers: Fishbrain, Joe Caramagna, Clayton Cowles, Cory Petit

Realm of Kings was the banner Marvel Cosmic “event” which spawned from the illustrious line of Annihilation, Annihilation: Conquest and War of Kings. Annihilation told the tale of the invasion of Negative Zone fores led by Annihilus, Conquest the rampaging of the Phalanx and WoK the ways in which to make tasty Chinese food…or possibly the power struggles between the Inhumans, Kree and Shi’ar. Given its lineage Realm of Kings is a bit of an odd beast. It collects a one-shot and three mini series, RoK: Inhumans, RoK: Imperial Guard and RoK: Son of Hulk. All but the last of these are written by the Marvel Cosmic mainstays of Abnett & Lanning.

Unlike the other recent storylines the elements of RoK aren’t really trying to add up into one big story or even into an underlying theme. For those who listen to our podcast you’ll know I loved Marvel’s Dark Reign thematic banner (and for those who don’t look for us on iTunes or via http://wftt.libsyn.com/) but this doesn’t have that depth or even that singular purpose. The stories are all quite isolated and frankly I think 80% of what this 368 page hardcover can be summed up in the sentence “weird shit happens in the fault”…there you go I’ve saved you £20.

The pick of the bunch for me is the RoK one-shot. It sets up what’s going to happen after RoK in an interesting way and gets the job done in a couple of dozen pages, has nice art and an interesting cliff-hanger.

The runt of the litter is the Son of Hulk story, if ever there was a mini-series tacked under an event banner for the hell of it then this has to be a strong candidate. I’ve got no history as such with this Son of Hulk or in fact with the Marvel microverse which seems to be so pivotal to the plot, but it all falls flat for me. Where Abnett & Lanning have excelled is in using obscure characters such as Star Lord and bringing new readers up to speed without either play exposition fairy or leaving them to flounder. Scott Reed doesn’t manage this in the slightest, without any previous knowledge I was utterly disengaged from the story, if I have to go to wikipedia mid-story then you’re not doing it right. The story didn’t even seem to be part of the same piece the other three elements were, not good.

Without spoiling, the Inhumans tale highlights the pressures of the newly established Inhuman imperial family and their efforts to govern the Kree race as well as themselves. Along the way we do get some character development but for me it felt like a re-telling of stories which we’d already seen. It lacked the usual strength of dialogue and in fact I was confused because the Inhuman Crystal seems to be almost speaking in High English, I don’t recall her pretending to be Lady Guinevere in other cosmic stories or when she was in the FF. Mayhaps needs must that I re readest my War of Kings post haste!

The Imperial Guard story again does little and with less character development on the parts of the participants. There’s a bit more humour in there, with an engineering planet named Izumbard (no doubt after England’s Isambard Kingdom Brunel) and a character drinking Um Bongo…which will only work for the UK readers most likely. If I was being generous I’d say this story was about Gladiator chafing at the constraints of leadership and finding his place amongst his new subjects.

The covers, particularly those by Stejpan Sejic, are worthy of note and definitely benefit from the larger print format used for the oversized HC.

Ultimately the book lacks any kind of a pay-off and whilst I’m sure the upcoming Thanos Imperative story will call back upon elements in these stories I think they fall foul of what seems to be a real Marvel curse, they are stories that didn’t need to be told.

Rating:

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Reviewer: Dave Williams

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