Realm of Kings is, essentially, a bookend to Marvel’s latest cosmic event. I dip in and out of this side of the Marvel universe, and while I recognise that the line, as a whole, has undergone a surprising return from the backwaters of continuity, I just can’t find it in myself to get invested in it. Realm of Kings is the perfect example of why.
The thing about Realm of Kings is that if you haven’t been following the Cosmic Marvel books, finding the nuance and meaning in the characters and plotting is very difficult. Perhaps this is what people feel if they come to superhero comics fresh. What I know is this: At the end of the previous crossover, a Terrigen bomb detonated, ending the titular “War of Kings” – but it also tore fabric in space. In this issue, Quasar goes to investigate and discovers something rather horrible on the other end on it.
As a plot, there’s little wrong with that. Indeed, there’s a lot right with it – a universe-bending threat is shown through the perspective of one man, giving it relatable meaning. The alternate universe is both striking and threatening, even though alternate realities are ten a penny in the Marvel Universe. Leonard Manco’s art is particularly good at evoking the sheer horror of a Universe that’s close to being burnt out, and the design of the twisted, occult-themed Avengers is immediately iconic and recognisable where too many artists would have delivered startlingly generic visuals.
However – this is the kind of story that is actively hurt by its presence in the Marvel Universe. However negative the effects of the dimensional tear, or the evil universe duplicates, I know it’s not going to get to the point where it interferes with, say, Spider-Man – and a decade plus of comic reading has trained me to know that if it doesn’t get a mention in Spider-Man, The Avengers or an X-Book, then it’s not a significant story. That means my interest is drawn solely based on the appeal of the characters – but Quasar, Starlord, the Micronauts… they’ve never interested me. I want to care, but perhaps I need a gateway book – something that can help me relate these characters to the ones that I am familiar with.
It’s a good start to a story that will no doubt please those already invested in the cosmic Marvel books, to the extent that I almost wish I was able to get on board. Indeed, if Realm of Kings was going to be an arc in one series, this one-shot would almost certainly have be enough to interest me – but ultimately, the knowledge that it’s going to be a sprawling, multi-book epic means that however intriguing the approach, I’m going to have to give it a miss.