By: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Steve McNiven, Sara Pichelli, John Dell (Artists), Justin Ponsor (Colorist)
The Story: As J-Son, king of Spartax and father to Peter Quill, is acting like a royal jerk, the team has to be rescued from captivity.
The Review: I had my doubts about this series. Being a huge fan of the previous volume, I just didn’t know if Bendis could pull the big cosmic ideas that Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning threw in each and every issues. Worse yet, he had changed a couple of elements that I loved from the previous iteration in favour of adding some elements that were most probably due to editorial demands more than anything. It’s easier to sell the book if Tony Stark is in it after all, with the character being one of the breakout stars from the movie universe they had created. I had tons of reasons to be wary of such a move on a property I loved.
Now, I’d like to tell you that this issue blew me away, that my fears were silly and that Bendis has a brilliant future ahead on this title, but that would be partly true. I am mitigated after reading the conclusion to the first arc, as there are several elements that work and some that just don’t. It’s a mixed bag of quality with some pretty nice things and some that just felt wrong to me.
Let’s begin with the good stuff. I have to say that I actually enjoyed the more political aspect when Bendis deals with the character of J-Son and his interactions with the council. While there are some inconsistencies in logic in these scenes (Annihilus, cosmic genocidal maniac that killed billions treated with respect here…sure…), I do like the manipulative side as the boasting and the clash of certain culture is brought up front. Sure, it’s not subtle in the least, but it’s done in a way that is big and can be still be appreciated, leaving us with some more potential scenes like this that could very well show us how the rest of the universe reacts to the various circumstances of the book.
Another thing I rather liked was the action, which is big and fun in a dumb, yet pretty entertaining way. Guns blazing, melee fighter with technical weapons and so forth, it’s pretty cool to look at as the Guardians overcome odds after odds while looking brave in the face of such danger.
However, there are some places where the book falters and one of those areas would be the characterization of a particular character. As far as I can see, Bendis has no problem writing Drax, Star-Lord and Groot, while he fumbles just a bit occasionally with Gamora, yet not in a significant way. No, the culprit here is my favourite character: Rocket Raccoon. Bluntly put, I think this new version of the character is quite at odd with how he was portrayed before in the DnA version of the book. I saw the same thing in the second issue and it continues here, as we are shown a rather trigger-happy, kill-frenzy character that diminish those he kills by saying classic lines like ‘’Blamo! Murdered you!’’. In short, Bendis changed a rather sympathetic, funny and optimistic character into the stereotype of a 14 years playing Call of Duty online. Let’s just say that I don’t think it suits the character quite well.
Another character which I don’t think fit the tone quite well would be Iron Man, who is supposed to be our point-of-view when seeing such big cosmic adventures unfold before our very eyes. To be frank, I thought his scenes rather brought down the whole cosmic feeling, showing us just how out of depths he was, with the other characters having to help him along the way (which does give us the only actually funny line Rocket Raccoon utters in the whole comic). I get that his scenes are for the newer fans and that he help people pick up the pace as to just what this series is about, yet a lot of his dialogue and his scenes just scream ‘’Exposition and explanation galore!’’ which can be a bit annoying after a while. Either he help the readers settle in, or he’s just part of the scenery, which is just a waste of character in my humble opinion.
If there are people that contribute to the cosmic feeling, though, it’s the whole art team consisting of Sara Pichelli, Steve McNiven and John Dell. While I do have to say I think the new costume designs for the Guardians are horrendous (they thankfully aren’t shown here), a lot of the Spartax environment and troopers were suitably space-worthy, looking a bit like a different versions of storm troopers from Star Wars, minus the helmet. The backgrounds, a lot of the characters from the political scene and most of the action scenes were quite well done as well, as they are given focus with good panelling technique and diversity. If there’s a thing that I can criticize, however, it would be Rocket Raccoon, who has a new design which makes him look much more humanoid this time around. While it is up to personal taste, I do have to say that I rather dislike this new way of drawing him and sincerely hope they’ll switch up to the Paul Pelletier/Brad Walker version.
What I liked a lot, however, was the coloring work of Justin Ponsor, who is suitably cosmic, giving us a large range of colors that intensify the alien sensation around the characters. The hologram effects and the stasis tubes are especially pleasing to the eyes, as Ponsor plays a lot with different light effects to great success.
The Conclusion: It is by no mean subtle or wholly original and while there are some problems with the characterization of certain characters, it cannot be said that it is not an entertaining comic. It makes up for its faults with good action and some beautiful art from Pichelli and McNiven and with some fun scenes from Bendis.
Hugo Robberts Larivière