by Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Francesco Francavilla (Artist/Colorist)

The Story: S.W.O.R.D. is under attack! Thankfully, the curiously Earth-obsessed Guardians are there to save the day…or at least try to.

The Review
: Brian Michael Bendis could be seen as a writer that really like to take his time, to let the situations and conflict build up just the right way in the stories he is telling. In his tenure on Daredevil, he had used his style to great advantage as he let one change affect the whole life of Matt Murdock in strange ways. In some of his books, his decompression and the way he treat dialogue is truly an advantage.

However, this style of his does not really work in some series or with certain genre of stories, with this issue of Guardians of the Galaxy being an example. While his take on dialogue, characterization and action can certainly work on other books, it makes this cosmic oriented series suffer a bit.

The first thing that is hurt by this is the pacing, with the issue being incredibly uneven at times. The first few pages of Gamora and Star-Lord bickering doesn’t seem to get to the point fast enough, lingering on with potentially interesting points that aren’t explored enough. When the action do start, it picks up in speed as it sometimes seem to slow down and then go faster as the dialogue and the non-descriptive action continues with Star-Lord, Rocket and Abigail Brand. It jumps around in terms of its plot progression and the importance of its elements, with character development and the action suffering as a result.

The characterization is also uneven, with certain characters like Drax and Gamora being especially weak. Drax, as reinvented by Keith Giffen in his titular mini-series and the follow-up that was Annihilation, had always been a tough character, one that was sure of himself, with a no-nonsense attitude and a particular philosophy about destroying things. With this characterization being the norm for many years, it’s a bit disappointing to see him portrayed as a somewhat meek and polite man here, one that doesn’t seem able to take his place among the team. Gamora, meanwhile, is still the somewhat most dangerous woman that whines a lot about her father issues. While it is always a nice thing to see a writer try to experiment with a newer take on a certain character, it’s never a good thing when that new take seems to take priority on everything that came before, which is happening with Gamora. The rest of the characters are somewhat fine, with Star-Lord having his usual banter, Rocket Raccoon being a written a bit better and Groot being his usual self.

Not everything is bad here, though, as the story premise is sound enough and there are a few quips that are legitimately funny.* The whole approach to things and how the Guardians try to save S.W.O.R.D. does make for something rather nice in its own way, despite the bizarre narrative flow and some of the questionable elements at play, like the fact that Star-Lord cannot understand the alien language or the rather forced and bizarre last-page reveal.

At the very least, this series always do possess a strong artistic direction, with people like Steve McNiven, Sara Pichelli, Valerio Schitti and other great artists collaborating, with Francesco Francavilla joining them as he works in this issue. While he brings a lot of his strengths along with him, there are a good deal of weaknesses here that don’t work to the issue’s advantage. While his spaceships and his sci-fi elements are done pretty well, some of the characters comes off as being rather static in term of narrative flow, with Rocket Raccoon being especially guilty of this in the first scene. Nevertheless, the characters are good-looking through the issue, despite the somewhat messy lines here and there, with a special exception for Gamora and Abigail Brand, who are perhaps a bit too much alike in how they are portrayed. The panel layout is good, but not great as it helps the action and the story to progress at their own chaotic pace without hurting the visuals, yet it doesn’t do much else beside that.

Where Francavilla is weaker in this issue is in his colorization, as his style doesn’t really add anything to the narrative. It do create an ambiance at times as his technique of mixing warm colors like orange and colder one like teal do make for good contrasts and his use of shadow do work in setting an atmosphere, yet it becomes overwhelming and repetitive rather quickly. It is quite stylish, but it does not amount to much in most scenes. It is different, yet it sometimes it’s better to conform a bit more to the norm in order to get the point across.

The Conclusion
: This issue does try to bring point of interests with a sound premise and the art of Francavilla, yet the uneven pacing, weak characterization and the weird colorization makes for a rather disappointing experience as a whole. Dropped.

Grade: C

-Hugo Robberts Larivière

*The best line award in this issue would go to Abigail Brand, who actually express the very same opinion as me on Rocket Raccoon’s newest catchphrase. It is in fact, quite disturbing, I must agree.