We learn that Michael Korvac and Simon Williams are the barons of two neighboring domains, the Forest Hills and the Holy Wood. (Just these names alone are almost too clever.) The (original) Guardians of the Galaxy (led by Major Victory) serve as Korvac's guardians, and the Avengers (led by Captain Marvel) serve as Williams'. Williams is coming to the Hills on a state visit to negotiate a security and trade accord just as the Guardians come across the seventh person infected by "the Madness," a disorder that causes them to ask where the stars are as they begin to remember the pre-Battleworld reality. The latest victim is Emil Blonsky, and the Guardians are forced to kill him when his disorientation turns him into the Abomination (as it has previous victims). Starhawk and his protégée, Geena, are working to solve the problem, and Starhawk underlines the stakes: the greatest crime on Battleworld is heresy, and, if Korvac cannot combat it in his own domain, Doom will send the Thor Corps to purge Korvac and the Guardians. Meanwhile, Williams arrives and makes it clear that he plans on shenanigans as he whispers to Korvac that he's not there to sign an accord. To make matters worse, Michael's wife, Carina, begins showing signs of the Madness as the issue ends.
We have a lot to unpack here. First, I'll say that I had the same problem here as I did with "Squadron Sinister," where the exact nature of domains and provinces are unclear. If you look at Marvel's Battleworld map, this series takes place in a domain called "The City." As such, Korvac and Williams' "domains" appear to be sub-domains within the larger one, though Abnett doesn't clarify that. At some point, it would be nice for some to clear up these definitions. On the plus side, though, this confusion doesn't weigh down the issue like it did "Squadron Sinister." Abnett makes the political realities abundantly clear, as the charismatic Williams seeks to expand his power at a time when Korvac is already weakened. To make matters more interesting, Carina asks Michael about his mental health earlier in the issue. She's referring to how tired he is, though it raises the possibility that he might be unstable like the original Korvac. (Plus, sleep disturbance is apparently a symptom of the Madness. Is he also affected?) Finally, it's interesting to me that Starhawk doesn't realize that they're stuck in a world created by Doom. He is after all the One Who Knows. I wonder if that won't come into play at some point.
In other words, Abnett has really managed to present a fully realized world in just one issue. It's an impressive feat and really continues Marvel's impressive streak when it comes to these tie-in series.
*** (three of five stars)