Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: Guardians Disassembled

I would really like to sit the person in charge of putting Marvel's trade collections together down, maybe on a small comfortable couch next to writer Brian Michael Bendis, and ask them, "Person In Charge Of Putting Marvel's Trade Collections Together, what are you doing with Guardians of The Galaxy, exactly? These collections are a complete and total mess."

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the fourth volume collecting Beindis' run on the title—between volumes 2 and 3 there's the Bendis-written All-New X-Men crossover, in the un-numbered trade Guardians of The Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey. It's the fifth if you want to count Bendis' first arc on Avengers Assemble, collected simply as "Avengers Assemble", an Avengers/Guardians team-up that accounted for the writers first time writing the characters.

Contained in this 160-page collection are but four issues of the title Guardians of The Galaxy, plus Free Comic Book Day 2014 (Guardians of The Galaxy) #1. Plus a pair of short stories, one written by Andy Lanning and drawn by Phil Jimenez and Livesay and the other written by Dan Abnett and drawn by Gerardo Sandoval, featuring the origin story of Groot and a prequel to the Guardians 3000 series, respectively. Plus the first issue of the 2012 Kelley Sue DeConnick-written Captain Marvel series, and a story from a 2011 issue of Amazing Spider-Man, written by Dan Slott and drawn by a pair of pencilers and three inkers.

The book's organization flows okay—in terms of events, the visuals are all over the map as per usual—but it's a bizarre reading experience, as it essentially tells a single story, kinda sorta continued from Trial of Jean Grey (rather than GOTG Vol. 2) for 80 pages, and the rest of the book is given over to out-of-sequence filler material.

As for the visuals, even if you just concentrate on the 80-pages of Bendis-written GOTG material, there are six different pencil artists, and six different inkers. In a sense, the imagery on the pages that are meant to be read as part of the same story is every bit as inconsistent as the collision of stories that have nothing to do with one another (although their inclusion makes a certain sense, as you'll see; putting an issue of Captain Marvel or a Venom story in here isn't as completely random as throwing in, say, a Dr. Strange and a 3-D Man story might be. Rather, it's just sort of irritating).

The trade begins with a 10-page short from the FCBD special, in which Tony Stark sits down with Flash Thompson, who the Venom symbiote is currently bonded to, and asks him if he would be willing to join the Guardians of the Galaxy as a representative of Earth. This involves Stark explaining the Guardians and discussing them one by one in typical Bendis-ian, which is used as narration over pages of the characters in action, killing what I assume are random Badoon soldiers.

It's a short, effective introduction to the book's premise and cast, and one that adds a new member. In other words, it's a good jumping-on point, and a good story for a FCBD special from Marvel. It's penciled by Nick Bradshaw, a really rather incredible artist who was one of the best parts of the generally excellent Jason Aaron-written Wolverine and The X-Men; Bradshaw, whose very detailed, Arthur Adams-like work excels at filling panels with weird, cool-looking stuff, and is a perfect artist for a book set in space (He previous did several scenes in which Wolverine and Quentin Quire travelled into outer space to rub shoulders with aliens during Wolverine and The X-Men). Bradshaw is apparently meant to be the regular artist, but this is the only story he finishes in its entirety; the remaining issues of GOTG all have secondary pencil artists as well.

These include Cameron Stewart (one of may all-around favorite artists), Michael Oeming (one of Bendis' longest and most natural collaborators), Todd Nauck, Jason Masters and David Marquez. If you know more than one name on that list, than you also know not all of those artists draw in similar styles. Hell, Bradshaw's hyper-detailed work is almost the polar opposite of Oeming's abstracted, flat and cartoonish style; I love the work of both, but they don't exactly blend, you know?

After the FCBD short, there are the four issues of GOTG, the "Disassmbled" arc. The various characters have all split-up for whatever reason—Thompson/Venom is with Drax on Knowhere, buying space weapons—when they are all each attacked and kidnapped, taken hostage by different alien races.

It is all part of a plan by Peter Quill/Star-Lord's father, king of Spartax, to bring his rebellious, half-human son to heel and disgrace and dispose of his team. Star-Lord is taken by Spartax, Rocket is taken by the Kree and set for vivisection, Drax is taken by the Shi'ar and sentenced to death, Gamora is taken to the Badoon and beaten for information on the whereabouts of her father Thanos, Groot is taken by The Brood and Venom is taken by the Skrulls.

Things work ultimately work out just fine, thanks to some sudden appearances of guest-stars Captain Marvel Carol Danvers, who comes out of nowhere (not Knowhere, but nowhere) to rescue Star-Lord, and Angela, who also appears as a bit of deus ex mahina, but who at least was a member of the team previously—the sub-title of the second volume was Angela, remember—so her swooping in to rescue Gamora makes more sense than Danvers' appearance.

The rest of the book is all filler. The Guardians-related shorts are apparently from #14, a "double-sized anniversary issue!" (I have no idea which anniversary that could be referring to). The Groot story is interesting in its attempt to tell an entire story with variations of "I am Groot" as the only dialogue between all of the characters and for the way Jimenez draws gritty tree-people, while the other story is simply a sort of advertainment inducement to get a reader interested in Guardians 3000, a title starring a version of the team that the popular Guardians of The Galaxy took their name from.

The Captain Marvel and Venom stories are apparently there to fill readers in on the characters, although they're really there to fill up space (I know the Captain Marvel story is collected in a Captain Marvel trade, and I imagine the Venom story appears in a Spider-Man trade somewhere). Given the relatively small roles the two play in the book, and the fact that there's not all that much that needs explained about them that these stories offer that Bendis didn't include, they're kind of pointless additions.

It's collections like these that make me happy that not only did I wait for the trade, but I waited for the trade from the library, rather than shelling out $25 for 80-pages worth of Guardians of The Galaxy comics mostly by the guys who have their names on the cover.

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