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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1

In perhaps the strangest move in their short existence, Marvel Studios made the shocking announcement last summer that one of their "Avengers: Phase Two" films would be Guardians of the Galaxy.  This news was met with an overall reaction of, "huh?"  Part of the reason for this is that Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the least known Marvel titles ever created.  While the film does not come out until August 2014, Marvel has decided to get the jump on any curiosity about the title before the film's release.  So how is this new Guardians of the Galaxy comic?  Read on to find out!

Taking advantage of their Marvel Point One line (releasing one-shot issues of a series to provide a jumping on point for new readers), Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 gives us a preview of sorts of what to expect for this comic.  In this issue we get the origin of Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, and how a traumatizing experience as a child set him on his path to leading the Guardians of the Galaxy.

Brian Michael Bendis is very much so a polarizing writer.  In fact, one could argue that it is not even that he is polarizing in terms of his entire body of work, but more that, book-by-book, people either love or hate his stuff.  Often it would seem that Bendis is a writer who is stretched too thin.  A year ago, he was writing far too many Marvel titles at the same time, and this showed when only one or two of these titles would deliver each month.  Over the past few years, the only title Bendis has had be consistently great each issue is Ultimate Spider-man.  As a huge fan of Ultimate Spider-man and Bendis' recent run on Avengers, I was more than willing to give Guardians of the Galaxy a shot.  There was just one problem: like most comic readers today, I knew absolutely nothing about the comic except that it was slated to become a movie.  That being said, I was at least intrigued by both the idea of a Guardians of the Galaxy film as well as a new comic.

Bendis made a great choice by doing this prologue issue of sorts for Guardians.  As Peter Quill is the only human member of the team, Marvel seems to expect that most readers are going to be able to sympathize with him first and foremost.  The movie will most likely be written along the exact same lines, making Quill the main protagonist.  With that in mind, I appreciate that Bendis wanted to give us an origin for this character (or at least an updated version of the origin he already had).

So how is this comic?  I can't lie...I actually loved this issue quite a bit.  Does Peter Quill have the most original comic book origin ever?  No, but that did not matter to me while I was reading the issue and it still does not matter to me while writing this review.  Bendis writes this issue with so much heart that I could not help but fall in love with this comic already.  With this issue, Bendis gets more close to his work on Ultimate Spider-man in that he gives us some very humanizing moments for these characters.  My only hope is that the rest of the series can live up to the high emotional bar set by this issue.  In fact, I would love to see Guardians take advantage of the point one issue a bit more down the line, giving us detailed origins for each member (minus Iron Man).

Sure, this issue gives us a bit of a gap between Peter's loss as a child and his becoming leader of what boils down to "Space Avengers," but I did not feel this was a detriment to the issue.  We get enough characterization for Peter Quill to realize he is a brave kid with a temper, but he also believes in standing up for those who are put down.  Quill's origins most definitely have their parallels with the origin of one Steve Rogers.  This should not be much of a surprise, though, considering Star Lord is the Captain America of the Guardians.

Ultimately, however, Bendis' goal in giving us this issue was to set us, as new readers, up for what Guardians of the Galaxy will be like.  At the moment, I have to say I am still not sure we got much of an idea how this book will work.  The members of the Guardians and, guest starring for at least the first issue, Iron Man are only seen in one splash page at the end of the issue.  I have faith in Bendis when it comes to this book as I know he can write a team book.  My only worry is that, once we have the team working together, this comic may lose some of the strong emotions present in this issue.

Where this issue really delivers in terms of previewing what this comic will be like is in the art.  Steve McNiven delivers in one single issue the best art I have seen out of any of the Marvel NOW books thus far.  Bendis seemed to be aware of how amazing McNiven is in that he gave him quite a few splash pages as well as one great montage where everything is expressed perfectly through just the artwork.  Not only are McNiven's scenes drawn beautifully, but his characters help to turn Bendis' emotional jab into a downright punch to the gut.  I am not an artist by any means and I do not pretend to know a lot about art, but I do know this: Steve McNiven does great art.  If nothing else, this book would be worth buying just to stare at the art.  It has been said that the perfect comic is one where you can look at the art and not have to see a single word to know the story.  That sentiment works perfectly in this issue.

Overall I am incredibly impressed with Guardians of the Galaxy thus far.  Perhaps the relative unknown factor will work to Bendis' advantage in that he can craft stories that deliver on more than just an action level.  Part of me wants to be worried for how this comic could turn out once it begins in earnest, but right now the future looks very bright for the Guardians.

Rating: A+

Summary:  Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1 is a great story paired with even better art that comes together to deliver one of the best Marvel NOW books.
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