THE COMIC COMPENDIUM: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Avengers (2013)

With the movie adaptation currently in cinemas, Edward recommends a recent Guardians favourite from Brian Michael Bendis. 

Who made it?: Brian Michael Bendis (Writer), Steve McNiven (Artist), Marvel Comics.

Who’s in it?: Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Iron Man.

Original run: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 #0.1-3.

Released: 28 August 2013.

I’m far too cynical not to think that the “Marvel Now!” reboot of the Guardians of the Galaxy series owes its existence and high-profile creative team down to this week’s film, at least in part, which is regarded as the company’s “make or break” movie as its premise is completely freed from the mould of previous entries. When the flick was first announced, I was completely stoked to see this band of intergalactic warriors finally becoming part of the Marvel mainstream after years of obscurity. Hell, despite having been around since the late 60s and having had multiple crossovers with Thor and the Avengers, the latter in the fan-acclaimed “Korvac Saga,”  no-one seems to have known who they were until now, with even self-declared comic followers asking “Rocket who?”, the blasphemers. 

As a small introduction, the team consists of generally the same characters as in the upcoming film (fuelling my cynicism); Star-Lord (Peter Quill), a half-human son of the King of the Spartax empire; Gamora, daughter of Thanos and known as the “most dangerous woman in the universe”; Drax the Destroyer, a former major villain turned anti-hero; Groot the living tree who has a limited vocabulary; and Rocket Raccoon, the universe’s only living anthropomorphic raccoon whose catchphrase is “Blam! Murdered you!” which should tell you a lot about his personality. Oh, they also count a certain Iron Man as one of their number as he tries to expand his horizons, rather than the ridiculous idea that his inclusion is merely to give any potential readers a familiar character that could influence them to carry on. D’oh!

We begin our tale with the origin of Star-Lord and the reason for his unique heritage, discovering more about his rather frigid relationship with his father, King J’son of Spartax. This is partly due to J’Son’s machinations around the wider galaxy and partly due to Star-Lord’s refusal to accept the role and duties of a Prince of Spartax. We also discover that Earth is both feared and coveted in equal measure by countless galactic empires and alien species, prompting a return to Earth for Tony Stark much sooner than he could have otherwise expected.

One thing about this series that both delights and dismays is that while the name has a lot of history to go with it, this team is completely fresh and new, with no need to know anything about any of its previous incarnations. This allows the reader to enjoy the series without worrying that they might not understand any references to past adventures, although this naturally means that for those who did enjoy prior stories, there’s no connections to identify with and no reason to continue reading it.

Brian Michael Bendis has been one of Marvel’s top writers ever since his run on Daredevil, and while he’s had the occasional hiccup (such as Spider-Men and Ultimate Fantastic Four), his output is generally at least above average. The main problem with Bendis’ writing is that it’s all good for exactly the same reasons. Any attempt to deviate from his usual style of cheeky commentary mixed in with a bit of action is what leads to his less than stellar work. While GotG is a good read, if you’re familiar with Bendis’ work, you’ll come out feeling like you’ve read it before.

Steve McNiven is an inspired choice of artist. Iron Man AND aliens? There’s the occasional moment, usually an action scene, where some of the movements and expressions appear unnatural. Otherwise, the detail is pleasing without being over-the-top. I first discovered his artwork through the Civil War crossover, but the art present here appears much less complex and in a less “realistic” style. This more cartoony approach, however, is almost certainly to its benefit in some areas as I’m not entirely certain either Groot or Rocket would have had the same impact in a credible light, yet it’s a shame that it makes his more humanoid characters look a bit ridiculous, the two Badoon in the first issue being a prime example.

The problem is that the popularity and future of the comic almost certainly depends upon the quality and success of the motion picture, with its fate resting in the hands of people who won’t have read any of the GotG series, past or current So, no matter how good a seriesis or who’s writing it, there’s still a damn good chance no-one will remember it in five years’ time when, in line with the current policies in place at both Marvel and DC, they’ve once again re-launched the series and we’re on Volume Six with exactly the same creative team as before.

This third volume of Guardians of the Galaxy is, despite its faults, a worthy addition to what has always been an underrated title. Any comic that can have the words “Blam! Murdered you!” as a catchphrase immediately increases the quality a notch or too. Here’s hoping the film recreates it.

Useless Trivia

(Via Wikipedia)
  • The original Guardians were active in the 31st century in an alternative time-line of the Marvel Universe Earth-691. The original members of the team include Major Vance Astro, an astronaut from the 20th century Earth who spends a thousand years travelling to Alpha Centauri in suspended animation. He is also the future alternative universe counterpart of Vance Astrovik, the hero known as Justice.

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