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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #1



You may remember my review of the .1 issue of Guardians of the Galaxy.  In that issue, Brian Michael Bendis gave us the updated origin of Peter Quill/Star Lord.  Not only was Bendis' writing great, but the art by Steve McNiven was among the best currently being done in comics.  Now the series has begun in earnest with Guardians of the Galaxy #1.  Read on to see whether the series looks like it will live up to the greatness of the .1 issue.



Like most boys abandoned by their father at a young age, Peter Quill has no desire to follow in his father's footsteps.  When Peter's father tells him that no one is allowed to set foot on Peter's home planet of Earth, however, Peter begins to suspect that dad may have ulterior motives.  Meanwhile, out in space, the Guardians of the Galaxy rescue Iron Man from a Badoon attack in time to see that the Badoon have another target: Earth.

In many ways, this premiere issue is a book end to the origin story from last month.  While it is very possible to understand this premiere without reading Guardians of the Galaxy #0.1, the scenes between Peter Quill and his father have an extra poignancy when one understands where Peter is coming from.  When we last saw Peter's father, he seemed a charming alien being who was willing to remain stranded on Earth to be with the woman he had fallen for.  As I have already mentioned, the scenes with Peter's father and mother in that first issue were close to perfect.  So much so, in fact, that many of these scenes were perfectly expressed without dialogue.  Now, some time later (twenty years I believe?), we get to see the kind of man Peter's father has become since leaving his son on Earth.  Peter's father fulfills many stereotypes of a royal dad upset with his unruly son.  The cliches used in these moments of the issue were almost a bit too expected.  Thankfully, Bendis does a good job of throwing in a few wrenches to the cliche.  Peter Quill is very much so his father's son, and the two small moments of father-son bonding in this issue are great.

Cosmic Marvel can sometimes be an acquired taste.  I will be the first to admit that, generally, I tend to avoid the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe.  This is not because of any dislike of space adventures (I'm a Star Wars fan for crying out loud), but more because I feel I know absolutely nothing about this aspect of Marvel.  Sure, there's Thanos and Galactus, but that is really the extent of my knowledge there.  What I really like to see in books like Guardians of the Galaxy is a writer taking something as vast as space and using it to show that very normal, every day things still occur to the people who populate that universe too.  Such an approach to science fiction comics is what makes books like Saga so good.  The setting may be unusual, but the problems are not.  As this is the first real issue of this new Guardians, we get to see that Bendis is making this a very relatable title.

Relatability is a very important quality for a book with so few known characters like Guardians of the Galaxy.  Marvel obviously wants to fix this unknown character issue soon as they will want to be able to sell tickets to the Guardians movie next year.  The choice of adding Iron Man to the team (presumably for the first story arc) was met with a lot of negativity, but it is actually a smart move on Bendis' part.  What better way to introduce relatively unknown characters to new readers than to do so with a superhero who, 5 years ago, was just as unknown as the Guardians?  While I feel I knew slightly more than a new reader might about Guardians of the Galaxy, I can confirm that this issue is a great jumping on point.

The only real unfortunate thing about this issue is that we only get to see the Guardians working as a team for the last third of the story.  This scene is easily the strongest of the issue, however, as it gives us a real taste of how Bendis will be directing this book.  What makes this team book so unique from others is that the Guardians very much so appear to be a well-oiled machine.  They are easily able to dispatch a Badoon ship together, with the help of Iron Man.  It also helps that Drax the Destroyer and Gamora come with their own reputations, making the group dangerous to enemies.  

On the art front, Steve McNiven continues to give us some of the best art in comics right now.  The amount of detail he can put into a page without the reader losing track of the action is amazing.  Not only are his characters just as well fleshed out on the page as they are in the script, but McNiven also gives some beautiful scenery for these characters to interact with.  If for nothing else, this book is worth the $4 for McNiven's art alone.

Overall this is a really good first issue.  Most team books tend to expend their first issue discussing the formation of the group.  Instead, introductions are made over the course of one splash page.  While this is still a great jumping on point for new readers, Bendis does not pretend that the Guardians of the Galaxy have never existed.  The team clearly has a history together.  Such mindfulness of what has come before is really something to appreciate in a book which could have easily dumbed itself down for new readers.


Rating: A+

Summary:  Guardians of the Galaxy #1 continues the great start from the .1 issue, doing a good job of making the comic a worthy jumping-on point while also acknowledging the title's history.  Also, the art is gorgeous.
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