There’s a new Prince of Power in the Marvel Universe, and former bearer Hercules is going to learn about him whether he likes it or not in this week’s Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1.
As well as being an annual for the main title, Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1 is also the penultimate installment of “Infinite Destinies,” an event about the Infinity Stones and their current whereabouts in the Marvel Universe (those things just keep popping back up and cause so much hassle, don’t they?). It’s more of a loose anthology series than a super-serialized crossover storyline, so if you’ve been reading Guardians but none of those other tie-ins, you’ll be fine.
As for the content of Guardians Annual #1, it’s an expanded origin story for—or alternatively, the himbofication of—Otherone, AKA the new Prince of Power. Earlier issues of Ewing’s Guardians have hinted at his origin through dialogue —he swallowed the Power Stone and it made him super—but little else. Prince of Power is something of a gag character as he’s been depicted thus far so over-explaining his origin could have potentially been unnecessary, but this is an Al Ewing joint. It’s an endlessly entertaining yarn that actually manages to give him more depth than he had before and even a little bit sympathetic.
Prince of Power’s whole deal is basically “Himbo He-Man.” He’s a dumb beefcake warrior from a fantasy realm terrorized by a campy skull-headed man. You wouldn’t think there’s much there there to write a whole origin story around, much less one that’s ripped almost wholecloth from an existing franchise, but it turns out the best way to mythologize a ridiculous character like him is to just go completely bonkers and stupid with it. It’s all in the details here. Prince hails from the kingdom of Noblar on the planet Muscula, where everybody is clothed in neon-colored fitness attire straight from the ’80s. Some of their most notable warriors are called Biceptor, Abdomina, and Legday. Their mystical (and info-dumping) mage is called Answeros. I think you get the idea here. It’s the epitome of “smart dumb” humor, and I’d expect nothing less from Ewing.
But the art of Guardians Annual #1 really takes it over the top, perfectly imagining a world inspired by that of Masters of the Universe while still feeling like a Marvel superhero tale. Flaviano’s a great choice for this script, really committing to the tone established by Ewing and making it a visual treat (it also doesn’t hurt that the Prince himself is really drawn to appeal to the gay male gaze, which I’m certain was intentional). Rachelle Rosenberg is also up to the task, making Prince’s origin story the colorful, vibrant fantasia you would expect from someone whose life was basically that of a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s all just a great package from every party involved, and I wouldn’t be mad if the suits at Marvel decide to give Prince his own series after this fantastic issue.