by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Sara Pichelli, Valerio Schitti (Artists), Justin Ponsor (Colorist)

The Story: Angela gets interrogated by the Guardians as we learn more about her origins in the process.

The Review: There are times when certain theories of ours gets closer and closer to being real. What may sometimes start as some kind of inner joke turns out to be much closer to truth, to either our joy or our horror.

My actual theory, which is just that, mind you, is that Brian Michael Bendis got this title our of editorial mandate rather than by choice. With the movie releasing in less than a year, those characters needed a presence in their original format and as such a strong creative team needed to be presented, thus Bendis being given this title. It may sound harsh, yet this issue do provide a lot of material that adds to the previous issues being released to support this thought of mine.

The first thing it does is provide more story material, focus and development on the guest character Angela rather than the titular team. With her being a creation of Neil Gaiman and a direct result of Age of Ultron, the more interesting aspects of this issue are dedicated to her character, with them being the result of two previous issues mostly focused around her to begin with. If the intended result of this month’s release was for the readers to be a tad invested in Angela as a character, the mission is accomplished, yet the other characters suffer as a result. With a story more focusing on anything else than on the Guardians themselves so far, it’s an odd read for fans to say the least.*

What also make them suffer a bit is the dialogue and the general inaction of the team in the process of telling the story. Bendis is well-known for his quips, jokes and what-not in the interactions between characters, yet here the dialogue merely serve to slow down the issue. He can be sometimes accused of severe decompression in his comics and this one could be a perfect example of this particular problem of his. This is a slow issue that moves from point A to point B, yet drags along with an uneven pacing toward its goal.

What is also a bit of a drag is the characterization of the team itself, which is close to non-existent in the dialogue and the actions. There are many jokes in there, to be sure, as characters like Peter Quill and Tony Stark have some semblance of a presence here thanks to their constant attempts at humor, yet the others simply don’t seem to have that luck. Gamora is angry, Rocket Raccoon is impulsive, Drax is also angry and Groot still seems to say his name. That’s pretty much all, as their personality is hammered down with close to every lines they say, with almost no regard to subtlety or perhaps any other reaction than the intransigence connected to their character and their point-of-view. Those who were fans before will probably be disappointed by what they see here.

However, the shining spot of hope in this issue is brought by Sara Pichelli and Valerio Schitti, who really bring a great effort to make this issue interesting visually. With each artists getting some specific scenes, each bring their strengths to their own parts in order to enhance the issue. Sara Pichelli, who handles the scene with the guardians and Angela, has the unfortunate task to render the most boring parts of the issue. She does admirably, though, as her dynamic panelling do bring a certain narrative flow on the interaction between Angela and the Guardians. Her expressions and character work is also pretty apt, with the expressions being rather good looking, possessing a touch of subtlety despite her semi-cartoonish approach to it all. Her backgrounds are also great-looking, with her sense of depths granting a lot of flair to the many elements and characters in some of her panels.

Valerio Schiti, though, handle a shorter amount of page as he illustrates Heven as he brings Angela’s vision of her own world to life. To say the Schiti is talented here would be too obvious, as he brings a sense of grandeur and some beautiful designs to this unvisited land from the Marvel universe. His monsters, his Angela and his backgrounds are superb, filled with details. His action, though, is remarkable as his sense of panel to panel movement is fluid, vivid and downright gorgeous to look at. These kind of pages begs for Schiti to be put on major title of his own.**

Justin Ponsor, though, does not have to beg as his colorization did put him on major titles already. He bring a great sense of cosmic and technologic flair to the visuals thanks to his palette, mixing a lot of duller colors with brighter and more luminous ones. The contrasts between the way he draws backgrounds and the more surreal elements really do enhance the whole aesthetics of the issue, with Heven and the spaceship looking especially nice thanks to his work.

The Conclusion: An especially strong visual direction from Sara Pichelli, Valerio Schiti and Justin Ponsor along with interesting information on Angela is hampered by slow pacing, shallow characterization and rather forced dialogue. An uneven read to say the least.

Grade: C

-Hugo Robberts Larivière

*And now with an upcoming story where the Guardians will team up with the X-Men right before participating in Infinity, it begs the question whether those characters will ever get their own storylines. They seem to be cursed to be part of the Marvel universe without actually being their own characters.

**A series about Angela, written by Neil Gaiman and drawn by Valerio Schiti would be quite the thing, putting Schiti on a position that do believe he has earned. Make it happen, Marvel!