It’s hard to find something to say about a book that seems as disinterested in concluding its first story as this one, which is why this review is so damn late. In this issue, the Guardians take down Hala, and we find out their involvement in the destruction of the Kree Homeworld. It doesn’t come as a huge surprise that both of these key events feel rather underwhelming, thanks to a very singular plot having to be shared around a large cast of characters, most of who have no personal involvement other than association with Star Lord.
If you boil these first four issues down to the barest bones of plot, you have a quest for vengeance against Peter Quill, with only Gamora standing between him and death. There’s also someone seeking to destroy Drax, as well as the vaguest mentions of some relationship strife between Peter and Kitty. Oh, and there’s a mysterious artifact that needs opening, but no-one cares about that right now. Only half of the starring characters in thus book are actively involved in the ongoing storylines, the rest (including The Thing) only serve to clutter the book and slow down the storytelling.
This isn’t good. Rocket Raccoon and Groot were the breakout stars of superhero movies in 2014, finding an audience and a fanbase that, frankly, no-one expected. They should be, if not central to the book, absolutely embedded in storytelling. And yet, you could remove them from the story told so far without disturbing anything. The same goes for The Thing, and absolutely for Venom. Although, to be fair, Venom does break Hala’s staff in this issue, his first active contribution to the story.
Guardians of the Galaxy seems like the perfect summation of the state of whichever incarnation of Marvel NOW we’re on right now. Without a genuinely interested and interesting creator at the helm, what should be a flagship Marvel title cruises along without much of a direction or identity, relying on a horde of variant covers to keep it in the top 50.
Even the art from Valerio Schiti, supported by Richard Isanove, previously a reliable element of the book, feels off in this issue. During the argument scene on the spaceship, everyone is depicted as contorted, screaming their dialogue when the writing conveys a scene brimming with tension. I called out Schiti’s tendency to veer towards the extreme in the first issue, and it diminishes the first half of the book.
I find myself that Schiti would get into some detailed fight choreography. He resorts to big explosions sending people flying twice, and devotes an entire two-page spread to Hala and Gamora crashing through buildings. Yes, it’s big, widescreen action, but Gamora is the most dangerous woman in the galaxy. She’s a fierce and vicious hand-to-hand fighter. I’d have been over the moon if the double-page splash had been replaced by a series of panels showing the two of them fighting, with Hala being victorious. It would have sold her threat more, and shown that Gamora is no pushover. Which, given that she’s spent most of this volume being beaten up or being unconscious, is the way she’d be seen right now.
Four issues in, and I’m finding this book lacking focus and drive. Perhaps the shift in storytelling from Hala to the Destroyers will give this title a shot in the arm.
Until I catch-up to month of publication, I'll be able to refer to the sales charts to take a look at how well this book is performing. Guardians of the Galaxy #4 was 35th on the sales charts for January 2016, a rise of 2 places. Sales in North America were estimated to be a little over 46,215, aof approx. 7412, or 14%.