On the day Mark McDonnell scatters his father’s ashes in the Colorado Rockies he’s contacted by a superhero with a crown and pristine white costume, and informed that after an exhaustive search he’s been selected to replace Imperial. It’s news he greets with incredulity, not least because as far as Mark’s concerned Imperial is nothing but a fictional character in comics he collects.

While Imperial is funny, downright hilarious in places actually, Mark’s experience isn’t a joke or a figment of his imagination, and the training is to begin forthwith, to use a term surely included somewhere by writer Steven T. Seagle. Mark’s not one of life’s great planners or adapters, and the forthcoming wedding to the delightful and understanding Katie is currently a major stress, so training to be a planetary protector isn’t really on the agenda. Unfortunately for him, he’s not being given a choice.

Seagle’s pompous dialogue for the in place Imperial works a treat alongside Mark’s narrative comments on it, such as “I have sifted the near infinite populace of this entire world for one man Mark McDonnell” “Oh crap, is it about that speeding ticket from Kansas?” The bathos between someone whose agenda is frequently saving the universe and someone whose greatest concern is keeping his action figures pristine is brilliantly delivered. At first considering the encounters hallucinations, Mark eventually accepts Imperial’s intrusions, but his concern then becomes concealing him and his intentions from Katie. Oh, and there’s the matter of inter-galactic monsters turning up on the street.

Mark Dos Santos supplies prime comic storytelling pitched at exactly the correct level, playing the situation completely straight, with no mugging for the audience. His cast are drawn as empathically as Seagle writes them, and audience sympathy is complete. There’s a nobility to the presence of Imperial, and illustratively the changes are apparent when his attitude alters slightly from the original stick up his arse presentation.

There is considerable overlap with Hero2, but it’s an idea that bears repeating, and Seagle and Dos Santos take matters in their own direction. Seagle maintains interest via at least one major revelation per chapter, and the story never exactly heads down the route you’re expecting, yet maintains a consistency, which is always good. At the conclusion it’s quite the novelty to discover this is a graphic novel complete in itself, not the first of a never ending series. Buy it, enjoy it, and make no further commitment. And you should enjoy it. It’s fast paced, unusual, witty and complete.