Monday, July 28, 2014
Review: Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2: Angela
I wish anyone who likes what they've seen of the movie Guardians thus far and decides to see what the comics offer the best of luck in trying to sort out what to read in which order, and I hope they find the experience an enjoyable one. The current ongoing monthly series, the one written by Brian Michael Bendis, kinda sorta began in the pages of Avengers Assemble in a storyline that has since been released as a collection simply entitled Avengers Assemble (a title which is a pretty common one for books featuring the Avengers).
Three collections of Bendis' Guardians of The Galaxy series have been released thus far. The first, Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 1: Tomorrow's Avengers was kind of a mess. It featured five comics. A special "#0.1" prequel issue that told the origin of Peter "Star-Lord" Quill, the first three issues of the series and the one-shot Guardians of the Galaxy: Tomorrow's Avengers, which featured short, solo-ish stories featuring the various characters all drawn by different artists and joining/re-joining Quill's team. Read in book form, it's borderline incoherent, as it is essentially three different beginnings to a story that never gets going, and while there's a lot of talent involved in turning Bendis's scripts into good-looking comics, it's hard to imagine a more inconsistent-looking book.
Here's the credits page, for an idea of how many artists were involved in just those first five Bendis-written, Guardians of the Galaxy-entitled comics:
Age of Ultron line-wide crossover event series and the Jonathan Hickman-written Infinity line-wide crossover event series take place between some of the issues collected herein, and each pushes the book in a different direction than the one it seemed to be naturally flowing in (and which Bendis seems to be intending it to go in during the first three issues of the series, collected in the previous volume).
It's possible to read this volume in isolation, without having read Age or Infinity, but I'm unsure how much sense it will make.
This volume collects Guardians of the Galaxy #4-#10, once again by Bendis and a bevy of talented artists. There are some particularly weird credits here though, like a "consultant" one for Neil Gaiman, which comes above that of all the artists involved:
After that issue, the next three deal with the mysterious fallout form the "time is broken" climax of Bendis' Age of Ultron, which gave Star-Lord a strange vision and somehow landed Angela, the one-time supporting character from the pages of Image Comics' Spawn that her co-creators writer Neil Gaiman and artist Todd McFarlane have been fighting over in court for years, in the Marvel Universe.
The character is a pretty generic '90s bad girl character, of the sort one might expect Gaiman to be ashamed to have his name attached to. As originally conceived, she was an angel from Heaven (named Angela...Angel-a....GET IT?!) whose mission was to come to Earth and hunt Spawns with a big sword, wearing little more than a metal bra and long ribbons.
As a character, she is most interesting for her behind-the-scenes history, as it involves such important figures in the North American comics industry of the 1990s as Gaiman and MacFarlane, and her introduction into the Marvel Universe is most interesting in that it seems like it has more to do with Gaiman and Marvel getting together to say "Fuck you, Todd MacFarlane" in stereo.
Here the character, who the collection is named after, is largely divorced from her own pre-existent history. After fighting the Guardians for about two issues, she eventually claims to come from a place called "Heven," where she was being trained to be a hunter, and to have never even been to Earth, although she's heard stories of it (I suppose there's something kind of interesting in the characters' parallel situations; Angela's from Heaven and only heard stories of Earth, while Quill and Tony Stark are from Earth and have only heard stories of Heaven, although Bendis does nothing other than point out that parallel in this volume).
After fighting, capturing, meeting and releasing Angela, the Guardians and their book then jumps into an Infinity tie-in story, with Francesco Francavilla taking over art and coloring chores. The Guardians attempt to rescue SWORD's Abigail Brand, who Bendis writes exactly like he writes SHIELD's Maria Hill, from the alien-controlled SWORD HQ. Captain America calls on them to join him and The Avengers in...something that apparently happens in Infinity or a tie-in, as after the two Francavilla issues, the story jumps again to some sort of post-Infinity storyline, in which The Guardians, now missing Stark but with Angela apparently on their team, are searching for Thanos.
That last issue is drawn by Kevin Maguire, who is maybe the ideal collaborator for Bendis, given the former's skills with facial expressions and the latter's preference for filling his scripts with panel after panel of talking heads.
All three of the primary artists are incredibly skilled ones, but none of them draw anything at all like one another, and the book's visuals are as scattered as its narrative, which, because it is so dependent on the events of other books, where the plots in some of these individual chapters actually begin and end, scans a bit like a movie with every third twenty-minute chunk excised from the run-time.
It has its pleasures—Bendis' banter, Francavilla drawing the very best Groot ever, the chance to see Maguire drawing a bunch of action scenes—but it's not a terribly coherent work, and I can't imagine anyone new to the property, to Marvel or to comics in general (i.e. the audience that Marvel seem to be targeting with all theses Guardians books) being able to make heads or (raccoon) tails out of it.
It doesn't seem like the title's going to get any easier to follow in the near future either, as the next volume, The Trial of Jean Grey, is a crossover with the X-Men, in which the teenage X-Men from the Silver Age marooned in the present day see their Jean Grey put on trial for crimes she will commit as an adult in the distant past of Marvel continuity.
You know what part I liked the least about this collection?
When the Guardians have finally subdued Angela on the surface of Earth's moon and taken her aboard their ship for interrogation, Quill hears her name and responds with a leer, "From 'Who's The Boss?' Angela? All grown up?"
On Who's The Boss?, "Angela" was the name of the character played by Judith Light, who was 35 when the show debuted and is now 65. I'm assuming the character Quill (and Bendis) meant was Samantha, played by Alyssa Milano, who was 12 when the show started and 21 when it ended and, as anyone who has seen Alyssa Milano since then can attest, grew up to be a particularly lovely woman.
Please note that I did not necessarily know or like Who's The Boss?, which I did not watch on purpose at any point during my life (I was 7 when it debuted, and 16 when it ended, if I did the math right), but I do have access to the Internet, and could thus spend the 10-20 seconds necessary to visit IMDb.com and determine that Milano's character was indeed named Samantha, and it was the grown-up lady on the show who was named Angela.
So what's the no-prize explanation here? In the Marvel Universe's version of Who's The Boss?, the characters played by Milno and Light had one another's names...?
According to Comics.org, there have only been eighteen issues of this volume of Guardians published so far, but they have 67 covers between them. That is a lot of variant covers.
Here are my two favorite from those included in the gallery in the back of this trade, the first is by Milo Manara and the second is by Skottie Young: