Guardians of the Galaxy: An Overbearing Father and a Tough as Nails Team
By Jerry W. Vandal
Story Tellers: Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven, John Dell, and Justin Ponsor.
“Go Krutack Yourself,” Star-lord said defiantly to his father—King of the Spratax Planetary system. The opening scene between the king and prince sets up two things very quickly; Peter Quill, the Star-lord is a rugged playboy and he doesn’t think all that highly of his father. Now, I’m not up on Guardians at all. Outside of knowing of them I’ve never read an issue. I’d wager there are quite a few readers who are in the same boat and decided to pick up this book because it’s being done by Brian Bendis and Steve McNiven and that sounds like a great pairing, to see what one of next summer’s big comic book flicks is all about and/or there’s a talking raccoon in it who has a large krutacking gun and goes by Rocket Raccoon. I’m assuming the usage of an alien language to guise the swearing is to give the book an edge and an attempt to play up the whole “these aren’t your average superheroes,” type thing. While its usage of the word throughout the book feels a little forced it doesn’t hinder what is a good read and could be a very good series.
If you haven’t read Guardians point 1, I suggest you do. It’s a great read and actually more engaging than the first issue of Guardians, in part because it focuses solely on Star-lord’s father and grounds the story to Earth. The general concept being pitched here is that Star-lord is the Prince of the Spartax, but he has no intention of doing the princely things his father would prefer. Instead he’d rather traverse the galaxy with a group of people his father considers of questionable taste. Peter is the high school kid trying to show his father he doesn’t need him, he doesn’t want him and he can get along just fine on his own. McNiven’s artwork helps and Bendis’ writing makes Star-lord a real person. Even if you don’t relate to him, as a reader you understand him. His father feels real as well. It’s not wrong what he’s asking of his son considering the position he’s in. While the king launches an assault on Earth as this issue comes to an end you’re still left wondering if maybe there’s another, somehow more altruistic reason he does so other than, “I told you not to go to Earth”. I mean it seems a little extreme to attack an entire planet to teach a lesson.
While we don’t get a lot of meat from the rest of the cast, relationships are quickly established, and surprise, they all feel more like friends than teammates. During the conversation with his father and plenty of king guards, Gamora bursts in and starts swinging away because she felt he might be in trouble. Raccoon isn’t willing to leave the tree Groot floating in space after an explosion during their fight with an alien race called the Badoon, and Drax refuses to let Gamora fend for herself even though she can clearly do fine on her own. Right off the bat the Guardians feel more like friends than teammates and that could prove to be a breath of fresh air in the team book circle.
Is Iron Man needed? If you’re worried about sales then yeah. Marvel banked on Bendis and Alex Maleev being able to capitalize on their critically acclaimed run on Daredevil and make Moon Knight a $4 title and that didn’t work. So, business is business. You throw in an A-list character and $4 seems like an easier sell. From a story stand point, I’m iffy on his inclusion. I hope his presence doesn’t over shadow the group of characters I quickly came to like. If this first issue is any indication it won’t be an issue. He should fit in rather easily actually. He and Peter are very similar characters when you consider the role father’s played in their development and their playboy demeanors. But, ultimately his inclusion goes right back to making it okay to up the price on the book and decisions like that never sit well with me.
McNiven’s artwork is his standard affair. By standard I mean it’s aesthetically pleasing. You can tell the difference between the characters he draws and I love that about his artwork. His cross-hatching rendering also adds a solid depth to the characters that makes them pop off the page. There are some artists I notice that if a character isn’t sporting a mask could just as easily be mistaken for another, but that’s not an issue with his work. His characters,which is important here also look tough—not because they’re overly muscular, but simply because of his detail and rendering.
Bendis seems to be hitting his groove again. His work on Avengers seemed to drag on a bit and arcs became hit or miss especially towards the end. But, with Ultimate Comics Spiderman, All New-Men, Uncanny X-Men and now Guardians, he’s picking up the momentum that could likely make him a writer of the year again.
Closing up the book I left with a few thoughts. One, I really love McNiven’s art. He’s definitely lived up to the young guns billing he received in 2004 (a promotion Marvel has done to showcase their up and coming artists). Two, There’s heart here. In a way it’s a cliché—the hero who doesn’t like his father and refuses to follow the path he wants. A galaxy deciding that Earth isn’t worthy of being united with them and needs to grow up. But this group seems to genuinely care for one another. They’re friends. And in a universe where most teams are together because they share mutated genes, band together to take on threats bigger than themselves or are assembled as some government backed super team these guys just seem like real friends. And that may help differentiate this team from others and help it stand out among the numerous Justice League, Avengers and X-books. That and a krutacking raccoon with a gun.