I’ve come to a conclusion recently, and it’s that being a cosmic character in the Marvel Universe means you never have time to stop and sit down for more than about 30 seconds. In the past few years we’ve seen “Annihilation,” ” Annihilation: Conquest,” and “War of Kings” rip through the space sectors of the Marvel Universe, each threat bigger than the previous. Now it feels like “War of Kings” has barely ended before “Realm of Kings” began, picking up with the exploration of the Fault that was created in the last cross-over event.
The plot itself isn’t bad, as Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning let the newly reborn Quasar take the lead and plunge through the Fault to see just what awaits at the far end of the space/time rift. What we get, though, is something that has a lot of potential but isn’t quite hitting the mark just yet. The world at the far end of the rift is one that sounds better than it is; talk of the “Many-Angled Ones” and public hecatombs certainly comes across with creepy mental images. It’s a lot of talk with only a little bit of show, though, and I think that’s the problem. Abnett and Lanning keep the rulers of this other universe at arm’s length for too long, and it’s hard to get excited about something that’s talked about more than actually on the page.
That said, when the big bad beings do come onto the page? Leonardo Manco is a good choice of artist for this kind of thing. I still remember Manco’s run as an artist on books like “Hellstorm” and “Hellblazer,” and he certainly knows how to bring the creepy to life. At first he seemed like an odd choice to illustrate what I thought would be a standard superhero book, but the deeper you get into the plot, the more it fits. I also had to laugh at how the story even uses Mahmud Asrar’s art to visually shift the book depending on where the setting is; it’s a smart way to contrast the two ends of the Fault, and I applaud whomever came up with the idea.
If allowed to progress in such a way to let their true horror shine through, the villains of “Realm of Kings” have the potential to drive a really fun and exciting story. Right now, though, it feels like we’re just getting the tip of the iceberg over that sunken world. Let’s see what we’ve got next.