Wednesday Reviews – Week of October 22
Guardians of the Galaxy #20
For those of you who joined Guardians of the Galaxy because of the film (which, let’s be honest, is most of us), you might be unaware of what Peter Quill and his merry band of space outlaws have been up to, specifically that up until relatively recently, Quill, along with Nova and Thanos, were thought to be dead, not just by the characters in the story, but by readers as well. That is until the GotG movie was announced and Peter Quill AND Thanos came back to life with no explanation. Wrapping the last secret of Original Sin, Brian Michael Bendis, with artists Ed McGuinness and Valerio Schiti, finally reveals what happened when Quill and Thanos were thought to be dead, how did they come back, and why didn’t Nova come back with them.
The amazing thing and terrible thing about Brian Michael Bendis is the way he crafts a comic book story. It’s natural, it flows well; his writing has all the strengths of Stan Lee and a serious novelist. But it can be a pain to read his stuff month-to-month because 22 pages can fill up quickly and still have nothing happen. This story was told over three issues, but easily could have been told in two, possibly an over-sized single issue. It is a quick story that is turned into a long one, for whatever reason (creative, editorial, contractual, etc.), and the story suffers from it. Instead of the smack down tidal wave fight this should have been, the story plays out like choppy water, the tension rising and falling, building a series of climaxes instead of a single, powerful one. Not only is this true for the action beats, but for the emotional journeys of the storyteller, Peter Quill, and his interrogator, Gamora (adopted daughter of Thanos). Gamora ultimately has fitting conclusion to her feelings of betrayal by her teammates, hidden behind her stoic persona, but again, it would have been more potent in one build-up, instead of allowing the tension to deflate between issues.
But for his flaws as a periodical writer, Bendis has always been someone who knows how to write for his artist, giving Ed McGuinness the chance to draw some knockout brawls over the three issues. Thanos feels like he was meant to always be drawn by McGuinness. The guy knows how to draw the big bulky characters. Not only does McGuinness make them imposing, he also knows how to perfectly capture emotions on the faces of his characters. When given a big canvas like Thanos or Drax the Destroyer, readers can appreciate the subtly McGuinness has as an artist. Valerio Schiti does a great job drawing the Guardians, but only gets a few pages. Schiti does do a fine job of capturing the cartoon-y realism of Rocket and Groot.
Twenty issues into the series and Bendis has finally tied up the final loose ends from the start of the new series. Personally, I am excited because the next storyline is focusing on the Venom symbiote, with the Guardians going to its home planet. Should be fun!
Guardians of the Galaxy #20 – 3 out of 4 Colors
This is what I have been saying to myself after every issues of Saga: “I need to write about Saga.” Each issue is worthy of a Chris Hardwick/Talking Dead-type show. Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples have created one of the great comics of our time. Saga will stand with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Alan Moore’s Watchmen. And that was BEFORE they introduced Ghüs.
This is the final issue of 2014 (Vaughn announced in the letter’s page that the book would return in early 2015) and it ends just as things are getting good. Six issues ago, the book jumped ahead roughly nine months, with newborn Hazel (also the series’ narrator) growing to a toddler. The first issue after the time-dash, Chapter Nineteen, promises that this is the story of how the series protagonists and Hazel’s parents, Marko and Alana, split up.
Since then, with the exception of the harrowing story of the birth of Prince Robot IV’s son, the story has been focused on the domestic life of our heroes, as Marko is tempted with infidelity and Alana escapes boredom with drugs. But with this issue, the reader has been caught up on what has been going on with the rest of the cast, specifically freelance brother and sister The Will and The Brand, Gwendolyn, Marko’s ex-finance, Lying Cat, and Sophie, a former slave of the planet Sextillion.
Vaughn knows how to write strong women. From preteen Molly Hayes in Runaways to Agent 355 in Y: The Last Man, Vaughn has a special talent for creating rich characters and he seems to focus that on the women of his stories. And while that is an incredible asset, it can come off a little too harsh when Vaughn goes crude, like when the rat/men security guards scream terribly misogynistic obscenities as they fight Gwendolyn.
As always, Fiona Staples is top-notch. I wish I had a more technical vocabulary to describe her work better; I simply want to keep describing it as beautiful. Even in depicting life’s uglier moments, Staples is able to find the beauty of her characters and their surroundings. She creates a world that you want to live in, despite the horrible realities it may have.
Though a well-crafted issue through and through (did I mention Ghüs?), it is still an issue that is more about setting the table than getting to eat. That is made all the more upsetting because of the hiatus. But that might just be the perfect excuse to jump back to issue 1 and enjoy the story all over again.
Saga #24 – 3 and a Half out of 4 Colors