By Marc Strom
The Shi'Ar's elite protectors take center stage this Wednesday, November 11, with REALM OF KINGS: IMPERIAL GUARD #1 from cosmic writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning plus artist Kev Walker.
Following the cataclysmic conclusion to War of Kings, the Imperial Guard must deal with the Fault, a tear in the fabric of reality. But before you launch headfirst into this action packed limited series, Marvel.com spoke with Abnett and Lanning in order to get the full rundown on the key players within the Guard, and see just what role they'll play in the upcoming events.
So, without further ado, get ready for a crash course on the inner workings of the Imperial Guard!
The Strontian known as Kallark has served as the Imperial Guard's leader-or Praetor-almost continuously since joining the group. Long bound by honor to serve the Shi'Ar empire and its ruler, Gladiator had his vows tested by the recent events of War of Kings and betrayed then-Emperor Vulcan in order to aide Lilandra Neramani. Since Vulcan's death, the Shi'Ar have turned to Kallark as their leader, and he has reluctantly accepted his role as the alien race's new Majestor.
"Kallark has moved from Praetor to Majestor, the emperor of the Shi'Ar," affirms Lanning. "He's done so reluctantly, and with a terrible sense of responsibility. Is the great defender of the Imperium a wonderful choice as ruler? Is he the steady, noble leader [who] the Shi'Ar have been waiting for? His first few weeks in office-and the threats that face him-will answer that.
"Perhaps he's too much a warrior to have the temperament of a leader," adds Abnett.
Gifted with an incredibly powerful brain, Mentor can instantly pinpoint any opponent's weakness. Throughout the Guard's history, Mentor has consistently shown himself to fight for what he believes right, rather than blindly follow orders given him by the ruler of the day. As such, Mentor helped Gladiator weaken Vulcan in the War of Kings by temporarily depowering the crazed despot. In the wake of Gladiator's ascension to Majestor, Mentor has taken the role of Praetor within the Imperial Guard.
"A hyper level genius, an analytical and tactical mastermind, Mentor is exceptionally gifted," lauds Abnett. "He's not an obvious warrior, but his mental abilities mean he can outsmart and defeat almost any foe. He has to settle into his new role as Praetor, the field commander and leader of the Imperial Guard. Is he too cold and aloof to generate any empathy with his troops?"
"She gives the Guard its primary telepathic insight and council, and she's a devastatingly ruthless psionic too," remarks Lanning. "Traditionally a key component of the Guard's strategic leadership, she must adjust to support and advise Mentor as she used to advise Gladiator."
B'nee and C'cil, two mechanoid beings who share a symbiotic relationship, have proven themselves one of the Guard's premiere powerhouses. With B'nee's ability to generate electricity and C'cil's incredible strength, the joint being known as Warstar has managed to fight even Captain America to a standstill in the past.
"[Warstar is a] heavy hitter with a binary split: the big tank-like humanoid and the electrically powered 'pilot,'" explains Abnett. "The Warstar is a common tactical war unit in the Guard, the backbone of any squad-we saw plenty of them in War of Kings-but this particular unit is the classic B'nee and C'cil combo readers have known since [the 'Dark Phoenix Saga']."
A member of the Stygian race, Neutron fell out of favor with the Imperial Guard after assisting Deathbird, Lilandra's sister, and Lord Samedar in their attempted coup. Banished to Earth, Neutron eventually made his way back to the fold and continues to serve under the group's new leadership.
"Very powerful, a front line primary division Guardsman, Neutron is honest and loyal, and fully supportive of Gladiator's elevation to power," Lanning notes. "But his volatile temper means he has a short fuse. Do not get into an argument with him."
Despite her status as a founding member of the Imperial Guard, Magique has largely kept to the background in the past. The mystically gifted warrior took a more central role in Vulcan's battle with Adam Warlock during the War of Kings, putting a "witchmark" on him that helped lead the Imperial Guard to the Guardians of the Galaxy's home base. In the ensuing conflict, however, Warlock managed to transfer the spell back to her, resulting in Magique being attacked by the Shi'Ar's own troops.
"Powerful, gifted, and a vital weapon in the Imperial Guard arsenal-their only defense against the rare but all too devastating arcane abilities that sometime crop up," Abnett points out. "Magique fell foul of the proto Adam Magus during the War of Kings. Now her terrible injuries have healed, will she have the confidence to return to the front line?"
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