Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Legendary Star-Lord Vol. 2: Rise of The Black Vortex

The second and final volume of Marvel's Legendary Star-Lord is a particularly patchwork affair. The short-lived, 12-issue series ends presumably prematurely in order to accommodate the publisher's Secret Wars plans, as just about every book Marvel was publishing ends just before or during Secret Wars, to be relaunched afterwards or not–Star-Lord gets relaunched with a new #1, new artist and the same writer in November. Unfortunately for any readers who might have been enjoying this "ongoing" Star-Lord solo series, it ends not with a bang, but a cacophony, whatever story writer Sam Humphries was trying to tell getting badly muddled as an inter-book crossover devoured the latter half of this series.

Of the seven issues collected in Rise, three of them are non-consecutive chapters of the 13-part "Black Vortex" story that ran through Star-Lord, Guardians Team-Up, Cyclops, Guardians of the Galaxy, All-New X-Men, Nova, Captain Marvel and a pair of one-shot specials. To break down the contents of this collection, then, we have Star-Lord #6-#12; that's three issues of Star-Lord telling Star-Lord stories, then part 3 of "Black Vortex," followed by part 9 of "Black Vortex," followed by part 12 of "Black Vortex," and then the final, Star-Lord-less issue of Star-Lord, a sort of epilogue involving at least two minor characters from the book.

It's not so much the "Rise" of the Black Vortex as it is the rise of the Black Vortex, followed by three random chunks of Black Vortex, followed by the aftermath of the Black Vortex. Were one to attempt to read this collection straight through, it would fall apart into complete gobbledygook in the middle. I started to read it, then stopped halfway through to go read Marvel's collection of Guardianss of The Galaxy & X-Men: The Black Vortex, which actually includes the whole storyline, and then came back to read the last chapter of Star-Lord Vol. 2. It's such a terribly assembled collection that I can't imagine what Marvel was thinking by even bothering publishing it like this; I suppose the thought was simply that without including the "Black Vortex" chapters, as unreadable as they may be isolated from the rest of the story, there just wouldn't be enough pages to fill up a trade. Usually their random filler material makes more sense than this though; couldn't they have just thrown in a "classic" Star-Lord story or two at the end, or something...?

That out of the way, we'll simply ignore the chunk of the collection that collects the out-of-context chapters of "Black Vortex" (I'll be writing about that next, anyway). The first few issues focus on Peter "Star-Lord" Quill's blossoming relationship with Kitty Pryde of the X-Men, who he met during an earlier X-Men/Guardians team-up story arc (Brian Michael Bendis' The Trial of Jean Grey; Bendis really likes Kitty Pryde, apparently). The two have been carrying on a kinda sorta extremely long-distance relationship, via some sort of hologram phone.

In the first issue of the collection, they are going on some sort of hologram date, with Peter taking a hologram of Kitty around his home planet Spartax on a date. I'm not sure how this works, mechanically, as in the past they were stationary when communicating; here he tries to take her out to dinner, and the space-opera, and dancing and so forth. Quill is being pursued by the colorfully-named Slaughter Squad, super-mercenaries hired by Mister Knife to capture him. He tries to hide these attacks from his superhero girlfriend, with disastrous results. Sam Humphries writes the whole issue like a comedy, albeit a not terribly funny, sitcom-in-space brand of comedy.

It ends with Peter being kidnapped by Mister Knife, who reveals himself to be...Peter's dad, deposed emperor of Spartax, J-Son! Kitty, seeing the capture via hologram, decides to go rescue her boyfriend in a stolen Avengers spaceship, with only Lockheed to accompany her. Yes, she may teach a team of superheroes, she may have deep connections to the veritable army of superheroes that is The X-Men, and yes, her friend Lockheed might work for an organization specifically devoted to dealing with space stuff (and her other friend Beast may be dating the head of that organization) but, she decides to go solo, evening ignoring the hails of Iron Man Tony Stark, a high muckety-muck in the Avengers who was also a member of the Guardians with Peter for a while.

I guess this was more dramatic...?

In the next issues, Kitty saves Peter, briefly meets his father and the pair retire to an orphanage that Peter helps fund for more old-school, network television-esque scenes (but in space!). After the pair come to terms with their crazy lives and have some sex, Kitty convinces Peter that she wants to do "something bad"; specifically, steal The Black Vortex from J-Son.

Now, they don't know what the Black Vortex is at this point, only that it's valuable to J-Son. What is it? It's a magic mirror that, if you look into it and "submit" to it (basically by saying "I submit" or agreeing to it or whatever), it gives you a terrible costume re-design, ups your power levels and maybe also kinda sorta corrupts you in a vague, never-defined way.

The actual heist takes place elsewhere, and here we get the three random chapters of "Black Vortex." So this is the point where a reader presumably stops reading this collection and goes off to read the aforementioned Black Vortex collection. If you do try to read, what you'll see is The Guardians, The All-New X-Men, some random X-Men (Storm, Beast and Magik), some Starjammers, Nova, Thanos' son Thane, Mister Knife, The Slaughter Lords and The Brood all arguing over and fighting over a big magic mirror for sixty pages. But, remember, these aren't consecutive chapters, and they don't specifically focus on Star-Lord, even though those chapters may fall in his book. I guess it would be a little like watching a movie on DVD, and you skip ahead to the third scene, watch that, skip three more, watch another, skip three more, watch one more scene and then stop watching the movie.

In the final chapter, Star-Lord doesn't appear at all. He can't, really, as it would ruin his big moment at the end of "Black Vortex," probably one of the biggest moments in the character's fictional life up until this point. So instead it features his half-sister Victoria visiting The Collector, who now looks just like he did in the Guardians movie, and bargaining with him to retrieve the body of J-Son, who kinda sorta died at the end of "Black Vortex" (which you wouldn't know from reading this book). Actually, he just gets encased in super-amber by Thane, son of Thanos, so he's only "dead" in the sense that, say, Han Solo was at between the end of Empire and the second act of Jedi was dead, or Wolverine is in the pre-Secret Wars Marvel Universe is dead.

She does this by dancing so well that she makes The Collector cry, and he collects the single tear he sheds (That's actually my favorite part of the issue...maybe because it's the only really good part of it).

Artists Freddie Williams II, Paco Diaz, Andrea Sorrentino and Paco Medina (with inker Juan Vlasco) draw this damn thing, and they all do a fine job. That's a lot of different artists, really, but they are all well within the same or at least similar aesthetic ballparks (Sorrentino sticks out, but is employed in such a way that it doesn't matter). The fact that almost half of the book isn't meant to be read anyway further distracts from the change in artists.


Dean said...

Isn't it Lockheed, rather than Lockjaw? Lockjaw is the giant teleporting dog who hangs around with the Inhumans.

Caleb said...

Yes, yes it is Lockheed. Thanks for pointing it out; I went back and changed it. I'm fairly certain that happens every single time I mention Lockheed here.

Daniel O' Dreams said...

It just occurred to me that Kitty has never dated anyone not named Peter; Rasputin, Wisdom, now Quill. In the Ultimate universe she dated Peter Parker. What's up with that and why am I just noticing it now?