Review by Frank Plowright
Celebrity status has shifted considerably in the 21st century, allowing for a generation able to build themselves into celebrities, which is a definite step forward if discounting the argument of how worthwhile the aim is in the first place. Kyle Thomas has hit the jackpot, a likeable, good looking lad with his meerkat whose videos have become a TikTok sensation, as publishers Michael Joseph proclaim on a cover featuring only his name. Can Kyle Thomas write or draw? The publishers have no concern about that, confident his brand can make them money.
At least there’s some greater honesty inside with the writing team of Leah Moore and John Reppion credited along with artist Amrit Birdi. He’s the go-to person for drawing projects under the names of online celebrities, having previously worked with F2 (poor), and Joe Sugg (slightly better). Pleasingly, though, Guardian of the Realm is well drawn, Birdi breaking down the pages in lively fashion for digital painter Palash Sasmal to add the colour gloss. Colour is important, and one of the most impressive aspects.
Moore and Reppion begin with Thomas and his mother moving as she’s been offered a job running a new animal sanctuary featuring ten distinct habitats, but no staff. Kyle’s soon taking the distinctly un-technological route of posting flyers asking for volunteers, rather than getting the word out via his TikTok following. Wi-fi seemingly not working within the park is a feeble explanation. But, guess what? There’s a sinister land developer keen to acquire the sanctuary, rather overplayed, and around halfway there’s an explanation of what the area is and why it’s important. Guardians are required, and Thomas could be one of them.
The suspicion is that the publishers are right and Thomas’ following is going to be enough to ensure a success no matter what. They want to see him and his meerkat in a fantasy adventure, and they’re not going to care, or possibly even know, that originality is at a premium. And truth be told, Guardian of the Realm could be far worse. It’s button-pushing with gaping logical gaps, but provides an adventure for Thomas’ young following, and toward the end Moore and Reppion do drop a couple of good surprises. However, it’s unlikely to make converts beyond Thomas’ already substantial fan base.