Sunday, January 18, 2009

X-Men Kingbreaker Preview: The Empress and the Gladiator

Marvel's solicitations for this upcoming week include several pages from the second issue of X-Men: Kingbreaker. In her attempts to restore her rule over the Shi'ar Imperium, Lilandra reaches out to her once most-trusted ally and protector, Kallark aka Gladiator.

Gladiator has been a super cool cosmic bad ass since he first appeared during the classic Pheonix saga fighting the X-Men for the life of Jean Grey, and since I first met him, when an Xavier-Skrull turned the Starjammers and Imperial Guard against the X-Men. He was pretty indisputably the most powerful being in the universe, at least the X-verse, with a Mohawk that was somehow timeless and Superman strength in a larger stature. He got a thousand times more interesting when I discovered his powers were directly related to his confidence and self-worth; if he, for one moment, doubted his ability to win a battle or, say, move a mountain, his strength would ebb and disappear exponentially.

That being said his drone-like obedience was a major turn-off. Despite personal prejudices, he would remain active in his role as Praetor, commander of the Imperial Guard, and protector of the Emperor, whoever she or he may be. The chutzpah! Sticking with the process even though his candidate wasn't elected. Oh, wait, actually he has served a few psychopathic megalomanic dictators, carrying out their orders despite being able to see their evil. (He's on his third one now.)

It has never been explained exactly why he is so stalwartly committed to his duties. (Or maybe it has, but before my time and not with enough clarity to make it onto wikipedia.) It's just been known that he is nigh invulnerable, dedicated to Lilandra, and unfailing in his job despite who his boss is.

Now, suddenly, Lilandra hints at a reason for his blind obedience. Which is interesting, but completely overshadowed by the appearance of some kind of romantic history between the two.

Lilandra, a wanted fugitive who knows Gladiator is loyal to his duty and is thus endangering both of them as well as affronting his conscience, wakes him up in bed and then gets touchy feely and hands on in her approach. She is the Empress for the largest civilization in the history of the Marvel Universe, who has spurned true love and affection time and again for the sake of her empire, not to mention lost her crown to usurpers about 3 or 4 times now, mostly due to her pacifist principles. Yet she, like Sydney Bristow, does not have a problem with using her sexuality or romantic history to try and recruit an ally in her ongoing war for power?

It just seems out of character. Or maybe just slutty and in character, it's not like Lilandra was ever super fleshed out (no pun intended) but her nobility was certainly emphasized. Am I missing a big chunk of Shi'ar history here? Or is Chris Yost just trying to add some layers to this new chapter in the ongoing Shi'ar/Vulcan/Inhumans/Nova space war(s)? Also didn't he used to be bluer? Maybe he fades as he ages, or perhaps it is emotion-related, like his power.

Regardless, I'm actually rather into it. I like the series, I like the last space-battle stories with Rachel and Havok and Lorna, I like the art and the ambition. So far it seems they've been able to manage the scope of it all, and I hope it continues, while providing the action and character building that it is ripe for (particularly the three aforementioned X-Men.)

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