In Abnett and Lanning’s “Legion Lost,” the team was lost in a rift, forced to take an odyssey through the unknown to return home. Abnett and Lanning’s “Realm of Kings Imperial Guard” takes that premise and turns it inside out, with the lost Legion — or their Marvel counterparts, the Imperial Guard — stuck across spacetime, sending distress signals back to their Superman, new majestor Gladiator.
Gladiator wants to rush to the aid of his comrades, but as leader of the Shi’ar people, he can afford to risk his own life to save his doomed former teammates.
That’s the dilemma that forms the basis of the opening sequence, while the bulk of the issue deals with the lost Guardians. Their Brainiac 5 counterpart, Mentor, coordinates the survival efforts, as some of the team members prepare to stand strong until the end.
The Imperial Guard normally play the role of villains in so many Marvel stories — they are easily manipulated or subservient to whoever currently wields Shi-ar power, but Abnett and Lanning give them a rarely-seen dignity here. They are heroes of their own stories, even if that’s not the perspective through which we normally see them.
And we get a couple of interesting twists in this issue, with an attack from some strangely-familiar hatchlings, bizarre X-Men monstrosities coming from the immense brain of an alternate dimension version of Professor X. And a betrayal from within, as one of their own team members is not who he seems to be.
It’s all crisply written, straightforwardly-drawn (by Kev Walker, who captures the bizarre aliens as well as anyone might) stuff in issue #4. You don’t have to be fully keeping up with the larger “Realm of Kings” saga to figure out what’s going on here. It’s basically self-contained, even with a title that would indicate otherwise.
With one more issue go, this series looks to be heading toward a nice, tidy wrap-up. But Abnett and Lanning may yet have a few more twists up their sleeves