2016

Guardians of the Galaxy #7 Review

Guardians of the Galaxy #7

Guardians of the Galaxy #7

It's been a few issues since I've talked about the covers to these comics. Art Adams is the primary cover artist, and his detailed art style really works with this cover. This cover does a fantastic job of getting me excited about this issue. The Thing, wielding a sword, riding a dinosaur, clutching a pretty girl. It promises a Conan-esque swords-and-sorcery romp, and the idea of putting the Thing in this genre, with his humour and ability to puncture the po-faced nature of the genre, really attracts me.

Of course, this is a Brian Michael Bendis Guardians of the Galaxy comic, so the contents of the book don't really bear much of a resemblance to the cover. We have a Rocket Raccoon/Thing solo adventure, with the two of them rescuing some people from the Badoon. As with the preceding issue, not much time is spent on why the two heroes are on the planet in the first place. We open with Rocket captured by the Badoon, but Bendis is far more interested in his take on Rocket's banter than he is in providing a reason for him to be in the situation that he's in.

When it comes to focusing on The Thing, I'm conflicted by this issue. He gets a great entrance, leaping from low orbit and landing with enough force to send the Badoon into disarray, and Bendis writes him with an easy relaxation, like a lot of the worries of his time on the Fantastic Four have been lifted and he can just enjoy messing around in space. I rather like this version of the Thing, it's a characterisation that works for me and one that syncs with his new situation.

I'm less enamoured by the story element that sees Ben fall for an alien and sort-of-get married. I think there's a good story to be had out of taking his relaxed attitude further, realising that a lot of his relationship hangups don't apply in space, but everything happens so quickly (literally, the entire scope of this comic doesn't cover more than about an hour, at most) that it feels really hollow. I struggle to believe that Ben would accept this situation without a moment of reflecting on what has come before, and it feels like deeper characterisation has been sacrificed for a not-particularly-interesting story.

Valerio Schiti's artwork continues in the same vein as before. His faces have a weird angular nature to them that definitely shouldn't be present for The Thing. His body acting is exaggerated and, at one point, completely at odds with the script. Rocket cries out 'Mazel too!' before admitting that he has no idea what it means, he only knows it from Kitty, whilst the art puts him in a pose like he's doing an impression of Larry David.

With The Thing taking the spotlight for the first time since the first issue, I was hoping for a good look at how Bendis feels that he fits in with the Guardians of the Galaxy. I can't help feel, however, that this is a huge missed opportunity.

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 #7 was 45th on the sales charts for March 2016, a fall of 16 places. Sales in North America were estimated to be a little over 40123, a fall of approx. 8207, or 20%.

Guardians of the Galaxy #6 Review

Guardians of the Galaxy 6.jpg

There is a huge disconnect between the end of the first arc and the start of of this new story, Galaxy's Most Wanted. We left off with the team reunited but on the run from the Spartax empire. We pick up here with Peter and Kitty off on their own, taking part in an infuriatingly undefined secret mission on a Badoon planet, and generally being very bad at keeping any sort of low profile.

The writing tries to frame the lack of subtlety as a result of Peter and Kitty trying to reconnect following their infuriatingly undefined post-Secret Wars breakup. Said reconnection focuses on how much Kitty thinks Peter has grown up by taking on responsibility (briefly) for Spartax, whilst Peter mocks Kitty's ability to choose her own outfits. Considering that Valerio Schiti decides to give Kitty 13 visible pouches in one panel, this criticism has a point, but mocking Kitty's outfits are fightin' words, and ones that would no go unanswered if this were a more focused X-Men blog.

Schiti continues to be problematic as an artist. A double-page reveal of the prison plant manages to only feature three defined prisoners, and shows some issues with perspective and distance when it comes to some featureless aliens hanging in cages in the distance. There's some very strange pacing on the penultimate page, where Star Lord is knocked out. Kitty turns around in concern, then there's a very small black panel, before Peter opens his eyes, having been transported to another planet and thrown in a gladiatorial arena. Because neither creator sticks with Peter as the POV character, it seems like he comes around after a few seconds, rather than what can be assumed to be several hours.

My biggest problem with this comic is that it just isn't the Guardians of the Galaxy story I was expecting off the back of the first arc. The team should be together, on the run, with half the galaxy trying to hunt them down. They should be trying to seek refuge, to shake their pursuers, not infiltrating prison planets with the subtlety of Captain Marvel's Civil War II characterisation.

Even worse, the concurrently-released issue of Star Lord also featured both he and Kitty trying to deal with their break-up, which begs the question: Just who thought there was a market for two separate, contradictory takes on this not-particularly-well-loved-match-up at the same time?

Much like the rest of this comic, this remains infuriatingly undefined.

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 #6 was 29th on the sales charts for March 2016, a rise of  places. Sales in North America were estimated to be a little over 48330, a rise of approx. 7749, or 16%.

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 Review

I made a mistake last time I reviewed an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, assuming that it was the conclusion to the first story arc. I was wrong - this is the conclusion, such as it is. We get answers as to who Yotat is, we get a status quo reset for Star Lord, and we get Hala wrapped up and removed from the book.

It all feels a bit unsatisfying, mostly because this is issue is a prime example of Bendis-by-numbers. Nothing’s especially bad, but there’s very little that really stands out in this issue. Yotat, much like Hala, is taken down by lots of punching, not by any particular plan or combination of the unique skills of the Guardians. I guess having four bruisers on the team - Drax, Gamora, Venom and the Thing - means that there’ll be more brawling than previously seen in the book, but it’s the obvious way to resolve a conflict. Yotat also doesn’t have a particularly interesting reason to be the second villain in this arc. He’s billed as the Destroyer of Destroyers, but he’s revealed to actually be a crime lord on Knowhere, using his muscle to intimidate people into submission. He wants to kill Drax because Drax once kicked him in the back. This isn’t a particularly strong motivation, and keeps what could have been an interesting and major character as a minor annoyance.

Bendis continues to struggle with characterisation in the book. Peter and Kitty’s marital issues have been lost in the fighting, with the two of them interacting as if nothing had happened. In one scene, Drax shifts from declaring that the existence of street-vendor glark is proof that there is a higher being to the overly-literal characterisation from the movie. At least Venom finally gets to do something, contributing to one of the fight scenes in a way that impacts the narrative, rather than standing in the background of the panels.

A high point of the issue comes with the appearance of the Knowhere Corps, comprising former GotG team-members Moondragon, Mantis, Bug, Cosmo and… er… Considering the overuse of captions in the book (there’s a weak joke about Kitty’s reliability as a narrator that’s set up in the captions), the lack of notes introducing these characters to the reader is unforgiveable. It was very nice to see some of my favourite Guardians back on-panel, and there’s clearly some tension between the two teams that I hope will lead into future stories, but if you were reading this book based on your enjoyment of the film, you’d struggle to recognise anyone beyond Cosmo.

Valerio Schiti’s artwork continues to be Valerio Schiti’s artwork. It’s fine, but the lack of detail in the art is starting to become an issue. The opening double-page splash relies too much on the colorist to fill in the space, whilst any figure not in the forefront of the panel is sketched out with a surprising lack of detail. I really don’t like his Thing, who appears to have a lean and angular face, and his characters tend to pose in place rather than give the feeling that they’ve been caught in the middle of a moment of action. The choreography of the fights lacks the fluidity of earlier issues, and the moment where Drax and Thing take down Yotat seems particularly unlikely - Ben punches whilst Drax delivers a roundhouse kick, at the same time, to the same face.

This arc has not been a good read. There doesn’t seem to be a focus on consequences for the Guardians. They were involved in the destruction of Halaa, but this doesn’t seem to particularly bother anyone. Peter Quill is deposed as Emperor of Spartax, but this doesn’t seem to particularly bother him. Peter and Kitty have broken up, but this doesn’t seem to particularly bother them. Ben’s lost his closest friends, but this doesn’t seem to particularly bother him. Venom’s barely in the book, but this doesn’t seem to particularly bother Bendis. With the final page promising a larger role in the future for Annihilus and the Brood, perhaps the next arc will bring better things for the cosmic side of Marvel.

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 #5 was 37th on the sales charts for February 2016, a fall of 2 places. Sales in North America were estimated to be 40,581, a fall of 5645, or 12.2%.

Guardians of the Galaxy #4 Review

Guardians of the Galaxy #4

Guardians of the Galaxy #4

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%.