Editor’s Note: Guardians of the Galaxy #3 arrives in stores Thursday, July 10.
Take some of the greatest characters and concepts in Marvel history, put them together in a single book, and you get the Guardians of the Galaxy. If only it were that simple.
It’s clear that Abnett and Lanning are aiming for epic space opera, shunting the heroes all over the dast galaxy in an effort to thwart the catastrophic and apparently random appearance of extra-dimensional anomalies. They succeed up to a point, but one is left with the feeling that there’s perhaps too much going on at once to derive much real meaning from these events; it’s all too busy. And while the setting is the vastness of interstellar space, there’s a distinct sense of claustrophobia. Part of the problem is the illustration. On any given day, Pelletier and Magyar are, hand down, among my favourite duos. They’re equally at home with quiet character study, way-out fantasy, splashes of action and bleeding-edge sci-fi, so what difficulty could there possibly be? Action. Nearly every page, and on some pages every single panel, fairly explodes with it. On and on it goes until overload begins to set in. The last couple of pages, lovely and serene though they are, have an almost jarring effect after the endless visual bombardment to which we’re subjected. At that point I was dithering between the lithium and the aspirin before settling on a single malt to calm my nerves.
This chapter sees the Guardians (still an unofficial sobriquet, despite Rocket Raccoon’s intense desire to appropriate it) tracking an anomaly to a Dyson Sphere, which threatens its fifty-two hundreds denizens. The heroes are pursued in turn by agents (or “Cardinals”) of the Universal Church of Truth who, unbeknownst to Warlock, Gamora, Quill, et al, have an altogether different agendum from what’s perceived as purely a matter of vengeance. They want a tissue sample from Adam Warlock on behalf of their leader, the Matriarch, in order to solve a mystery. Politely asking for a friendly tongue scraping and a few vials of bodily fluids isn’t quite their oeuvre, of course, and “unlikely” hardly begins to describe what Warlock’s answer would be, so they opt for threats, abuse, and massive property damage to achieve their goal. The inconvenience of their timing helps to doom the sphere’s inhabitants, though the implication is that they might have been doomed one way or the other, and it’s all the Guardians can do to quell the immediate threat and escape more or less entact.
Back aboard their vessel, “Knowhere”, Mantis and Cosmo have their hands and paws full with their own mysteries. A time-space displaced and amnesiac Major Vance Astro from the “classic” Guardians of the Galaxy is suddenly attacked by the wholly enigmatic character Starhawk, who appears, makes a mess, then vanishes. Apart from damaging key elements of the ship which jeopardizes the Guardians’ escape from the sphere, the battle helps to jar Vance’s memory, if only slightly.
See? Not so hard to divine the story once you’ve fastened your welding goggles in place to compensate for pages and pages (and still more pages) of things blowing up.
Taking a brief look at these new Guardians, I’m a bit iffy about the use of Mantis by anyone save Steve Englehart. Her evident role as cosmically powered comic foil is a big step back from “Celestial Madonna”; a wait and see policy is probably best. Adam Warlock’s new quasi-mystical abilities seem at odds with the character’s history but, again, I’m willing to swing with the times. The resurrected Gamora continues to be the “deadliest woman in the universe”, according to Drax, while Drax himself appears to be maintaining a reasonable semblance of intelligence despite his tremendous physical power. Apart from having a silly name and Wendell Vaughan’s Quantum Bands, Phyla-Vell seems to be the weak sister of the team; presumably it will take more time for her to grow into her role as Quasar. Seeing Peter Quill again is terrific fun as I was a big fan of Star Lord. Among the characters he seems to be the least altered, which is nice as the group is already cosmically powered up to their whatsis. It’s a shame about “Ship,” but life goes on. Least but not last on the roster is the main reason I signed on: Rocket Raccoon. While I’m not generally enamoured of so-called “funny animals,” it’s no secret that I’m very fond of little critters. Rocket isn’t given a whole lot to do in this issue beyond some exposition, but it’s comforting to have such a seasoned warrior in your corner.
I came for Rocket but I stayed for Cosmo, who is without doubt my new favourite Marvel character. Listed as “Head of security, Knowhere. Uplifted post-canine. Man’s best friend,” he’s your basic little, brown dog in a pressure suit with a Russian accent who communicates telepathically, and a clear sideways take on the Soviet space-dog, Laika, an infamous example of Cold War propaganda and cruelty. I’m holding my breath for a Cosmo spin-off series, hopefully illustrated by Pelletier and Magyar.
Incorporating Jim Starlin’s Universal Church of Truth into the story creates a few problems, not least of which is, given their apparent power and scope of influence (over a trillion “faithful”, according to Rocket), they should have long been one of Marvel’s principal outer space antagonists, along with the Skrulls, the Shi’ar, and so forth. The idea of their Cardinals being able to not only utilize but accumulate and stockpile “prayer power” is one part clever, one part loopy, and one part insane-making. “Belief Batteries”? Really? So I take it that the Cardinals “keep going and going…”. Rocket’s observation that “Basically, that means they can do anything if they believe they can” only serves to reinforce my reticence. Abnett and Lanning might have reached a little too far with this one. On the other hand, the mysterious cocoon-like object in the final panel is sufficiently provocative to maintain my interest in the book. An alternate-reality Warlock? “Her”? The Magus? Whatever or whomever’s in there, I’m betting it’s not sunshine and puppies (unless they’re the “bad” sort of puppies).