Editor’s Note: Guardians of the Galaxy #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, May 14.
“Somebody’s Got to Do It”
“NNFFF…Form a Team, Protect the Universe. Gotta say, Pete Ol’Boy…” mutters Starlord a.k.a. Peter Jason Quill, as he hangs from a window on a giant starship heading toward an enormous spatial fissure, “…Not one of your best ideas.”
The Guardians of Galaxy are back in town and they’re here to make sure no evil villain or unruly symbiotic alien race launch another galactic sales event (Who’s down for Annihilation: Conquest: The Search for Curly’s Gold ?). Instead, this interesting consortium of cosmic characters is stopping plots before they’re hatched, but they may need some time to get the hang of it.
Assembled in the aftermath of Annihilation: Conquest, Starlord leads Adam Warlock, Gamora, Quasar, Rocket Raccoon, and Drax on their first mission to a starship of the Universal Church of Truth (UCT), which is heading toward a fissure in space that could release a whole bunch of nasty things into the universe. The narrative is split between the present mission and the past. We see Adam Warlock choosing to join, seeing the team as a justification for his resurrection. There are other great character moments like Starlord and Rocket Raccoon getting get drunk at a bar, and Drax and Quasar finding resilience from Moondragon’s death. These scenes help flesh out the team and give each member connection to the other, while pushing the action and story forward.
Pelletier’s art dutifully mixes these moments with energetic action, but the most impressive shot is the bridge to the ship’s control room. Adam, Gamora, and Drax run toward the control room as a horde of UCT fanatics start running towards them. The bridge where they meet is a grand structure that mixes cobblestone and futuristic design into architectural symmetry. The archway to the control room is vaulted above like a church organ, incorporating the cobblestone motif. The entirety is surrounded by hundreds of floating bodies in glowing vertical streams; they are devout members of the UCT whose faith powers the ship. The splash page is breathtaking at first, but rather unsettling once who you understand the context.
I really enjoyed this book. Although I have never read any of these characters in their previous incarnations, I was able to follow along and understand their history. I can’t speak for fans of the old Guardians of the Galaxy series (which didn’t have any of these characters and took place in the 31st Century), but for anybody looking for a fun space adventure, Guardians of the Galaxy #1 is a good place to start.
Plot: It’s the obligatory “gathering of the team” approach. But in space. After two annihilations. And not 1000 years in the future. But all those dimensional incursions still make the local reality pretty screwy out here on the Rip, the “outer edge of time-space.” Lots of familiar faces are ready to spring into action in newly rehabilitated guises from page one.
Comments: The question is, are we ready to tag along? I didn’t check in for much of Annihilation and know only that Annihilus and the Phalanx tried to invade our galaxy, and did wipe out the Nova Corps among others, and now our universe is unstable due to all the dimensional rifts involved in those events. Damn that Negative Zone!
This issue I learned that Moondragon has died (which wasn’t the case in the last Annihilation-related issue I purchased), that Drax is smarter than he used to be (but no less bitter), that Phylla-Vell and Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon and Warlock (who’s alive again, and may or may not be from a different timeline) are all gung ho for more heroism, while Gamora is both surly and horny, and her latest squeeze Nova himself has other things to do. Still, it’s most of the major players of the recent space opera events, now being invited, scene by scene, by Star-Lord to join his crazy new pro-active team of unofficial space cops.
The set-up is formulaic to the extreme, but not badly done. Still, the titular imperative of the story doesn’t really come across, especially as they spend most of the issue not repairing reality warps, but fighting some space fundamentalists.
The battle is intercut with post-battle commentary (sporting event-style) from each participant, as well as flashbacks set in a planet-rich tapestry of sci-fi conventions. Those places are, if anything, overly familiar, if not bizarrely Earth-centric. Hala, the Kree capital world, has never seemed so human (“Hotel Supremor?”), Rocket Raccoon makes eBay jokes, and breeding seems to be on the minds of these mostly humanoid aliens, inter-species or not.
Dialogue based on character distinctions shows a positive development for Abnett/Lanning (given their more plot-driven Legion of Super-Heroes years), and the package is made quite visually appealing by Pelletier. The Universal Church of Truth ship is basically a Gothic cathedral on a space dock, and it’s impossibly ornate and fantastic inside and out. Many of the heroes are energy-wielders, and they look great wielding their powers, while Gamora and Drax get a little less of a chance to flex their muscles in this outing.
Everybody else is really good with guns, and that’s about the level on which this thing plays. That the two main guys, Star-Lord and Nova, are such average joes causes me to focus more on the regal and always bizarre Warlock, but there’s potential here, and the action takes place amidst much pertinent (if not very colorful) dialogue. Pelletier goes for the drama in a mostly realistic style that fits in with the earlier crossovers, so Marvel seems to know the appeal of this segment of their universe.
But the quest and the setup and the goals are standard ones, and this series is going to need more of a fresh approach to distinguish itself, especially as it has abandoned almost everything about the original concept that goes with its borrowed title.