By: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Steve McNiven (Penciler), John Dell (Inker), Justin Ponsor (Colors), Cory Petit (Letterer)
The Review: The following things will occur during the course of this review. First, I’ll obviously be giving my heartfelt opinion on Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 – my treatise on the best flavour of Ramen Noodles will have to wait for now (in brief though: Chicken). Second, I will muse somewhat on how awesome it is to have Bendis back on such winning form – when he’s writing like this, the Marvel Universe is a much better place. Thirdly, I will use the term “cosmic restructuring” again and again and again – because this series is undoubtedly the keystone of that process, the linchpin of Marvel’s interstellar ambitions.
This cosmic restructuring has its beginnings elsewhere. Iron Man #6 technically kicked things off by relocating the Armored Avenger to Space (not that this changed much other than the landscape and the suit, but hey, it was a start). Nova #1, released last week, was far more integral to the
project. It was an impressive introduction to its new lead, Sam Alexander, and even managed to fit in a GOTG cameo along the way. But this is the grande fromage, super-charged with synergistic potential thanks to the upcoming Guardians movie and also thanks to some big name talent. Bendis and McNiven on an ongoing title…Marvel comics don’t come much more star-powered than that.
We start at the beginning. Literally in this instance, when Quill was nought but a twinkle in his father’s eye. “Thirty years ago,” a Spaceship crash lands in front of a remote Colorado home, and it’s sole occupant, Meredith, rushes to the downed craft, finding the injured “J’Son of Spartax “ among the wreckage. From there it’s the classic story of alien-meets-girl, girl-helps-alien-fix-ship, alien-falls-in-love-with-girl.
Alas – proving that even extra-terrestrial men are capable of staggering acts of douchery – the morning after the two get to doing the the no-pants dance J’Son is off, conveniently remembering that he has an intergalactic war to get back to. Joking aside, it’s a sensitively handled story of two star-crossed lovers, and if the Sodium content in these tasty Chicken-flavoured Ramen Noodles hadn’t already hardened my Heart to stone, I’d have no hesitation in calling it hopelessly, charmingly romantic.
Flash forward ten years and the product of J’Son and Meredith’s union is the young Peter Quill, a daydreaming kid who despite an understandable set of Daddy-issues has evidently been instilled with a strong sense of right and wrong. Quill’s life is like any other 10 year-old kid’s until the day a Badoon Death Squad show up looking to end the bloodline of his absentee father. It’s a scene of tragedy that brings an Intergalactic war to Quill’s door, a cumulative act that informs the rest of his life. In the present, Star Lord makes this perfectly clear: “My idiot Dad can keep on fighting his never ending war…and the Badoon can go on wreaking havoc all over the Galaxy…but I can make damn well sure they never touch Earth again.”
When read from cover to cover this issue manages to imbue an epic story spanning three decades with a real sense of intimacy. The romance between Quill’s parents (as fleeting as it may be) feels sincere, and the brief exposure we have to Peter’s formative years effectively evokes a likeable but vulnerable character – outside of the cosmic influences he’s someone we can relate to. This is achieved through some richly emotive art (more on that in a moment) but also a script that grounds fantastical moments with a candid, sentimental touch. By focusing solely on the figurative birth of Star Lord this issue is all character work, and it’s a shot of Bendis at his best; it confidently dispels any notion you might have that Marvel’s cosmic restructuring is all style/synergy and no substance.
The script also gifts its spectacular art team with a rare opportunity; there’s roughly a third of the book that operates without dialogue. With an art team like this I guess you can trust in them to sell each and every moment with the highest levels of fidelity and McNiven and co. don’t disappoint. For what is – a book mostly centred around naturalistic Earthbound moments – McNiven’s skill at regally rendering the more mundane moments is second to none, but the glimpses we see of the wackier stuff (re: the Badoon and a certain gun-toting Racoon) look great too. Justin Ponsor’s colors keep everything bright and attractive and John Dell’s inks amplify McNiven’s fine line work, bolstering everything with a great sense of depth and added dimensionality. Much like Nova, the art team’s been selected to give this book the highest levels of professional lustre; if it manages to look (and read) like this when the film comes out, any curious movie-goers pulled into its orbit may have a hard time leaving.
My only gripe lies with the fact that, in some instances, you’ll have read quite a lot of this material already. Reading the Preview pages in late-stage solicits is always a take-it-or-leave-it deal but aside from that, 6 pages of this book have already been printed in the Marvel Now! Point One anthology. This is poor form – every other title that was given page time there (Nova, FF, even Cable &-frickin’-X-Force) managed to produce something new and exclusive to that book. If you opted to pick it up (bearing in mind it cost an eyebrow-raising $5.99) you’ve had a key part of this issue spoiled without a hint of warning. And you’ve paid for the same content twice. As moves go it’s cheaper than Chicken-flavoured Ramen Noodles, though on the bright side it’s unlikely to affect the majority of readers.
Conclusion: Bendis’ batting average is pretty insane right now, a feat made more impressive considering the disparate set of books he currently oversees. Near single-handedly keeping the Ultimate universe alive, reorganizing the X-titles and now leading Marvel’s cosmic restructuring from the front…Marvel would still be lost without him. The difference between now and a few months ago is that everything he writes he seems to be committing far more energy to; no more tepid Avengers books about unimportant bits of crossover continuity, no more filler. Both publisher and readership are reaping the benefits.
As a Point One issue this is more of a straight-up origin tale and character study of the book’s lead than it is an introduction to the wider team. But it’s still a wonderfully effective primer, and while it might be hard to tell from this exactly what to expect from the series, this much is clear: it’ll likely be of a very high quality. Making the best case yet for comic fans to be excited about Marvel’s latest plans for the stars, Guardians Of The Galaxy is definitely one to watch.
Filed under: Marvel Comics, Reviews Tagged: | Badoon, Brian Michael Bendis, Guardians of the Galaxy, John Dell, Justin Ponsor, Marvel, Marvel Comics, Marvel NOW, Marvel Reviews, Origin story, Peter Quill, Point One, Rocket Raccoon, Steve McNiven, VC's Cory Petit