Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Review: Legendary Star-Lord Vol. 1: Face It, I Rule

I know last year’s movie was pretty popular, but regardless, Marvel’s been expanding their Guardians of The Galaxy franchise at a rather incredible rate—Hell, it’s incredible that Guardians of The Galaxy even is a franchise.

Legendary Star-Lord is the the third in the new Guardians suite of books, launching after Rocket Raccoon became the first of the Guardians of The Galaxy spin-offs, and well before the debut of the Guardians 3000 and Guardians Team-Up (A sixth book, starring Groot, will launch in June). Legendary Star-Lord is also the one that seems most directly based on the film, with Peter Quill having by at this point been thoroughly and completely refigured to essentially just be “The Marvel Cinematic Universe” version of himself, rather than the version of himself from the comics.

To be fair, he was gradually moving in that direction anyway, ever since Keith Giffen and company dusted him off and teamed him with Rocket, Groot and other space characters in 2007's miniseries Annihilation: Conquest—Starlord and writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's 2008-2010 Guardians ongoing. By the time Brian Michael Bendis re-introduced them during his short run on the short-lived Avengers Assemble and relaunched the Guardians title, he was a Spider-Man-style wise-ass (that being one of the two or three broad categories of character types that exist in Bendis’ Marvel writing).

Here though he’s wearing his costume from the movie, from the big red coat to the slightly goofy disappearing mask. He’s got his gun and jet-boots from the movie, and he’s drawn to look a lot more like Chris Pratt than previously.

He’s now more of a lovable loser-meets-rouge type of character, he loves old Earth music, he spends a lot of time in prisons and, just to gild the crap out of that lily of corporate multi-media synergy, his solo book takes its name from the most-watched part of the film (thanks to its prominence in the original trailers) and, hell, there’s even a very, very forced “Ooga Chaka!” reference in this book.

It’s a bit…much, really, but I suppose it’s safe to say that if you liked Star-Lord in the movie, you’ll like his comic book as well. Writer Sam Humphrise certainly seems to have put a lot of effort into capturing the spirit of the character from the film in his comic scripts, to the point that this comic book reads more like a spin-off from Guardians of The Galaxy the movie than it does Guardians of The Galaxy the comic book.

For reasons never actually addressed, Star-Lord is solo, the other Guardians only putting in cameos at best (Rocket appears in a fantasy panel, when Quill consults his WWRRD? wrist-band, Drax appears in the last panel of the book, they and the others appear in a montage). X-Man Kitty Pryde, currently Quill’s extremely long-distance girlfriend, actually plays a much bigger supporting role, appearing via hologram phone repeatedly throughout the five issues included in this trade.

Quill is after a powerful maguffin with which he hopes to take on and defeat Thanos, but along the way he’s captured repeatedly—first by The Badoon, later by his half-sister—and pulls off a couple of daring escapes, picking up a new ship and some additional supporting cast-mates along the way.

He squares off against Thanos on the moon, and seems to be kicking his ass pretty well, at least right up until the point when Thanos explains that if Quill kills him on the moon, the energy released will destroy the moon and therefore Earth. So Quill lets Thanos go. This is all pretty silly, really, and seems to be there mainly to give Quill something to do for a few issues (secure the maguffin) and tie-up some loose plot threads that pre-date this book’s existence.

Why does Quill take on Thanos all by himself, rather than calling in his own team? Or his girlfriend’s team, which is a veritable army of super-powered mutants? Or the 20-hero strong Avengers line-up? (Remember Iron Man was palling around with the Guardians for an arc or two in the relaunched Guardians ongoing).

His excuse is that he doesn’t want anyone else to get hurt, but given the fact that he almost beats Thanos solo, it probably would have behooved him to have a Thor, Hyperion or Iron Man around to help him move Thanos a safe distance from the Earth before finishing him off.

More perplexing still is that Quill lets Thanos leave the moon for deep speace, rather than pursuing him; if Thanos’ last card to play was that his proximity to Earth meant Quill couldn’t kill him, why would he leave the moon, and why wouldn’t Quill just follow him and kill him in space?

The answer, of course, is because Humphries and Marvel don’t want to kill off Thanos, but the script for that issue really could have taken a few more passes in order to make the conflict and its resolution make sense in context.

That issue, the fourth in the series, was drawn by Freddie Williams II and colored by David Curiel. Williams figure-work is recognizable as his own, but his line is much rougher and grittier, perhaps because he isn’t coloring his own work here, as he was doing at DC a few years back…? I actually wouldn’t have even recognized it as Williams’ work if I didn’t know it was his going in.

The rest of the book is drawn by pencil artist Paco Medina and iker Juan Vlasco. It’s clean, smooth, appealing artwork, which stands out sharply from that of Williams in his one chapter.

After the early climax involving the battle with Thanos, the final issue introduces a team of bad-asses working for the mysterious Mr. Knife in order to steal something called The Black Vortex—which is also the name of an upcoming X-Men/Guardians franchise crossover—and the fact that Mr. Knife also has a contract out on Quill’s head.

I’m not completely caught up on the Guardians book, which has actually been kind of difficult to follow, what with all the crossovers and the organization of the collections, but Humphries seems to be doing the light-hearted space adventure of that book (and, even more so, the movie) perfectly well. This read an awful lot like Guardians of The Galaxy, with more Quill and less Everyone Else, which is probably exactly what a Guardians spin-off series starring a particular character should read like.

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