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Guardians of the Galaxy #22 Review

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Brad Walker

Colorist: Wil Quintana

Cover Artist: Alex Garner

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

From the front cover to the last panel – everything – and I do mean everything – works for this comic.

Garner’s cover art is eye-catching and beautiful to behold. I absolutely loved his renditions of Moondragon, Drax, Rocket, and Bug. Hey Marvel, if we can’t have Walker as artist for every issue, how about hiring Garner as fill-in artist for Guardians of the Galaxy?

Speaking of Walker, he really outdid himself with the art for this issue. I’m not exaggerating when I use the word ‘magnificent’ to describe his work. From the small details of a character’s face in a close up panel – to a ginormous double-page spread of Knowhere crashing through the UCT Fleet of ships – Walker proves he is adept at handling every aspect of art that such a sprawling cosmic epic as Guardians of the Galaxy demands. I especially appreciated his attention to detail in every panel. Nuances in characters’ facial expressions, wrinkles in the characters’ uniforms, starships in the background, and the sheer number and variety of Luminals depicted are just the first few examples from a long list of other details that show the care put into construction of each panel. Thank you Mr. Walker – the fans notice these details and admire your work. Speaking of admirable work – Quintana’s coloring of this issue is jaw-droppingly good. I think he deserves an award for his coloring of the combat sequences and especially for the double-page spread featuring Knowhere.

The dynamic writing duo of DnA continue their hot streak for this book’s storyline, weaving a tale featuring action, adventure, humor, character development, and non-stop excitement. In terms of character development, I was most impressed with the attention given to Moondragon and Drax. The healing in their relationship was nice to see – and Drax’s development into a more complex character was a welcome story thread. Drax is a favorite of mine from way back and he’s been past due for some serious character development. Thanks DnA for taking Drax beyond the 2-dimensional bad-ass characterization. I also loved it that Rocket got a chance to lead and to shine – showing once again that he’s a lot more than mere comic relief. Starlord also shines in this issue. The success of this mission is a major step toward redemption for Starlord. His overall demeanor changes for the better in the last part of the story. The twist at the end of the issue is not a great surprise; but it is a welcome development. I was very pleased to see what was depicted in the background of the last panel.

With edge of your seat excitement, snarkily funny humor, gripping drama, engaging characters, and stunning visuals – Guardians of the Galaxy is a breathtaking romp through the cosmos that is light years ahead of the competition. Call your local comics shop and have them reserve you a copy today!

Article by: Bill Meneese

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Disney Sees Superhero Dollars In Marvel Unknowns – Nova Movie?

Good to see Nova get a little PR!

 

The Associated Press –

Movie fans have shown a willingness to be entangled by Spider-Man’s web over, and over, again. But will they want to crawl into the comic book world of Nova, seen here in an image provided by comic-book giant Marvel Entertainment Inc. That’s the kind of question facing The Walt Disney Co. as it nears its $4.2 billion purchase of Marvel Dec. 31, 2009.

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Guardians of the Galaxy #21 Review

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Brad Walker

Colorist: Wil Quintana

Cover Artist: Brad Wilkins

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

It was fitting that this issue was released on the eve of Christmas Eve because it certainly felt like a wonderful early Christmas present.

There’s a lot to love about Issue #21 of Guardians of the Galaxy. First, I must once again heap praise upon master storytellers DnA. Only in their hands could a character with as many intrinsic flaws as Moondragon actually carry a story this complex. Amazingly, for the first time ever I found Moondragon interesting, sympathetic, and relevant. I found myself actually starting to like her and beginning to honestly care about what’s happening to her. It was also nice to see her hold her own in a fight against a vastly more powerful foe.

Walker’s fine renderings go a long way in re-making Moondragon from an arrogant, self-centered, occasional pseudo-villainess into a more heroic character that might actually develop a fan following. Not only does Walker capture Moondragon’s beauty much better than most other artists have in the past; but he also takes the time to make her facial expressions mirror the various internal and external conflicts and turmoil with which she is contending.

I’ll admit that I was at first nervous about Moondragon joining the team and being the pseudo-narrator and focus character of this arc as in the 36 years that I’ve been reading stories featuring the character I’ve always considered her a “story killer.” My fears have been allayed. She strengthens this arc. One thing though – the big goofy earrings have got to go. I don’t know any soldier or law enforcement officer who would engage in hand-to-hand combat wearing something like those big earrings that could easily be grabbed by an opponent and used to inflict disabling pain (and wasn’t this exact scenario portrayed in a fight scene in the otherwise eminently forgettable Aeon Flux movie?). Even setting aside the practical considerations, the big earrings detract from her looks. Let’s just drop them and focus on the lithe sexy bald chic look such as was so perfectly captured by the Ilia character in Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Star-Lord’s portrayal is also noteworthy. DnA nicely capture a Peter Quill who is rapidly “fraying around the edges” from the multiple sources of stress coming at him from every angle as well as the inner demons which have always driven him. Thus, vulnerable both psychologically (from recent and historical events) and physically (having been de-powered some time ago) – Quill is easily the most “human” of the cast of characters and therefore the most intrinsically relatable to the readership. I’ve often wondered why DnA have chosen to keep Quill de-powered. I suppose the “human-ness” that I’ve just referenced is at least one reason – but I don’t think a power tweak would make him less relatable and I confess that in 2010 I’d be happy to see Ship find him and return his healing factor, partial invulnerability, and flight powers at the very least. The other Starlord, Singin Quarrel, can keep the Element Gun as I never cared for that poorly conceived weapon. A projectile weapon is the proper side arm for the Peter Quill Star-Lord.

The final breakout character of this issue was Drax the Destroyer. I’ve been a Drax fan for 36 years (yeah I’m old). My favorite incarnation was the original Thanos-obsessed, purple-cape-wearing, skull-cap-sporting, cosmic powered version. My least favorite incarnation was, of course, the poorly conceived brain-damaged pseudo-comedic version from the Infinity Watch era that was thankfully put out of its misery in the pre-Annihilation Drax mini-series (leading to creation of the modern incarnation).

I do like the modern portrayal even though it’s perhaps occasionally a bit too Wolverine-ish for my tastes. I was glad to see Drax get some character development time in this issue. Too often he’s been portrayed as merely the bad-ass guy who shows up and kills all the villains in the room. Don’t get me wrong, I like bad-ass guys (and girls – see the uncensored Kick-Ass trailer featuring Hit-Girl) who show up and kill everyone in the room – I just prefer them to have a better motivation than “because I can.”

The UCT Matriarch really did a number on Drax with the psychological manipulation trick; but that should trigger character development such as we have never before seen from Drax. As a side note, I’m looking forward to seeing how Drax will exact revenge against her. As another side note – what’s with Drax’s alien-looking facial appearance? I prefer the more human facial characteristics such as depicted in his Annihilation appearances.

Of course, Rocket Raccoon and Groot contribute to the humor of the series with assistance from Bug and Jack Flag – all without going overboard to the point that it interferes with the gravity of the situations in which the team finds themselves. I really hope 2010 brings us at least one Rocket-centric and one Groot-centric plot thread as these two intriguing characters are just aching for further development. Rocket has been stellar in his role as Peter’s second in command; but I want to get to know him a little better – learn more about his background and his motivations. Likewise, I want to know why Groot sticks around on Knowhere rather than making efforts to rebuild his Kingdom. While I’m on the subject of anthropomorphic characters, I’ll just come right out and say it. I MISS COSMO!!! Please DnA, bring Cosmo back in 2010 (and while you’re at it – bring back the easy on the eyes Gamora and Mantis).

As in most good science-fiction/science-fantasy, relevant and topical socio-political-religious issues are addressed. Governmental cowardice on the part of Knowhere’s ruling council, government sanctioned treachery on the part of Knowhere’s official super-powered peacekeepers – The Luminals, and the religious fanaticism of The Universal Church of Truth are all touched upon. The consequences of these issues are presented without heavy-handedness or descent into preachiness; and without DnA necessarily taking a side. In other words, DnA use the situation to provoke thought about these complex issues – letting the reader draw their own conclusions. Thought provocation – now that’s a rare commodity in what passes for news programming and popular entertainment these days.

Walker’s photo-realistic style art is among the best I’ve seen in the business. I always look forward to opening up an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy and enjoying the eye candy when I see Walker’s name on the cover. Quintana’s coloring makes the art pop off the page and command your attention – adding another layer of depth to the comics reading experience. Wilkens’ cover art is successful in being both attractive and in accomplishing the difficult task of a one-frame capture of the action characteristic of each issue of Guardians of the Galaxy – providing the initial temptation for potential readers to pick this book off the shelf and for long time readers to continue buying it. That’s the acid test for the quality of a cover in my comics worldview.

In closing, I’d like to thank Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Brad Walker, Wil Quintana, Bill Rosemann, Joe Quesada, and all the other Marvel Artistic and Editorial staff who have worked hard to bring we fans each wonderful issue of Guardians of the Galaxy throughout 2009. Thanks especially to the loyal fans who buy each issue of Guardians of the Galaxy so Marvel can keep these incredible adventures coming to us each month. Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t just set the storytelling and art bar for Cosmic comics; it sets the bar for all comics. Let’s all continue to work together to make 2010 an even better year for Marvel Cosmic. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the Marvel Staff and the Cosmic Fans.
 

Article by: Bill Meneese

 

 

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Guardians of the Galaxy #20 Review

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Brad Walker

Colorist: Wil Quintana

Cover Artist: Alex Garner

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

Awesome. Amazingly, jaw-droppingly awesome. I felt as though I had just finished reading a chapter from a dramatic, exciting, well-constructed novel.

Issue #20 is both an aftermath story for the previous arc and a prologue for the next arc. Transitional issues of a series are often times among the weaker stories in a series; but in the highly talented hands of writers Abnett and Lanning, Issue #20 is one of the dramatically strongest of the series thus far.

We are treated to an issue filled with a blend of action-adventure, plot advancement, and a unique form of character development through the eyes of the newest telepath addition to the team, Moondragon. Moondragon “gets in the heads” of several of the characters to explore their motivations and their struggle to cope with the deaths of so many teammates last issue. There are some particularly somber and touching scenes featuring Starlord and Rocket where their pain is evident both in their words and their faces.

Speaking of Moondragon, I have to say that I was a bit concerned with her addition to the team at first. I’ve never really liked that character. To me, she always sucks all the air out of any storyline where she appears. Not so this time out. I was pleasantly surprised all the way around. She really worked in this storyline both as an individual and as part of the team. In fact, this storyline wouldn’t have worked as well as it did without her and her private struggle to cope with the loss of Phyla.

The tenuous political standing of the Guardians on Knowhere station is also explored a bit more; with fan favorites, The Luminals, guest starring as foils to Starlord’s plans. It is during this sequence that we get another tantalizing clue as to who is in the cocoon being held by the Universal Church of Truth.

My personal favorite visual scene takes place in Starlin’s bar. Rocket on a booster seat and Groot with a giant-sized umbrella drink being absorbed through his roots will hold a special place in my visual memory for a long time.

Speaking of visuals, let me rave about the art. First off, Garner’s cover art was well-constructed, eye catching, and intriguing. It almost looked like a poster for a SF horror film. It would tempt me to buy this book when it caught my eye on the shelf; and that’s the yardstick I always use to judge a cover.

Walker’s interior art was magnificent. I was excited to have him back on this book and he did not even come close to disappointing. Every page was eye candy. Walker brings back the intricacy, depth, and all around eye pleasing beauty of the characters and the settings that has been missing for the last several issues. He even made me see Moondragon’s beauty for the first time as normally she does nothing for me. I was struck by his ability to capture the emotions of the characters in their postures and facial expressions. He also perfectly captured the weird and wonderful environment of the fault and its denizens. I hope Walker stays on this book forever. To round out the visual extravaganza, Quintana perfectly captures the mood of each scene with his coloring and shading. Comics art and coloring don’t get much better than this.

If you’re not buying this book, you’re missing out on one of the best comics being published by any publisher bar none. It is truly head and shoulders above most of the stuff that makes it to the shelves – including the best sellers. The dynamic writing duo of DnA paired with the incredible artistic talent of Brad Walker make this book a top quality must read every month. I know it sounds fan-boyish, but I’ll admit that I generally read it for the first time in my car on the parking lot of my local comics shop because I can’t wait until I get home to see what DnA and Walker have created. Seriously, if you ignore everything else I say, take my word on this one. Buy Guardians of the Galaxy. In fact, buy two copies and put one in the hands of a friend who is not currently reading the book. It will leave both of you happy; and you’ll make a friend for life.

Article by: Bill Meneese

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Guardians of the Galaxy #19 Review

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Wesley Craig

Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn

Cover Artist: Alex Garner

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

One of the many strengths of Guardians of the Galaxy is that it is never predictable. The cynical point of view as expressed by a reviewer at another website is that Marvel allows DnA to take chances with GotG characters because nobody is going to buy action figures or other merchandise in their likenesses. In other words, the cynical point of view is that Marvel doesn’t really care about this book or these characters. I disagree. I think Marvel knows they have a hot property here and they are encouraging DnA to push the boundaries. Issue #19 certainly takes big chances with the characters and with the future of the series. It remains to be seen if the big chances will result in a big payoff or a big bust. That’s just the nature of gambling.

I must say that when I first read #19 I had a lot of mixed feelings about the direction of the story line. I read it a second time; then a third time just before I sat down to write this review. The third reading was the charm in the sense that by then I could move beyond the purely visceral emotional reaction of anger at seeing so many of my favorite characters from one of my favorite books so brutally and needlessly slaughtered – and focus on the actual story being told. The story DnA have woven involves the (seeming) resolution of several plot threads stretching as far back as Conquest; and incorporates the classic heroic themes of courage and self-sacrifice in the face of apparently insurmountable odds. Through the use of the time paradox plot device, they also ask the questions: If you could go back in time to a specific pivotal moment in your life and change things – would you? Would it even make a real difference and would the unintended consequences be acceptable? Would it be worth it – especially if it involved sacrificing the lives of your friends? Would you sacrifice your friends and yourself to save the universe? DnA then explore the often crushing responsibilities of leadership via Starlord’s terrible and fateful dilemma at the end of the story. Would you have wanted to be the trigger man in that situation? That wasn’t really Magus he shot. That was Warlock. It’s kind of like the old question: “If you could go back in time and shoot Hitler when he was a child, would you do it?”

So, the good news is that the chances taken with the characters “worked” on a purely dramatic level. That’s the upside of the gamble. Now, what about the downside?

Well, on the downside, a whole bunch of fan favorite characters are (apparently) dead – and this in a book with sales numbers such that it can’t afford to be losing readers (many of whom are angry about the deaths and threatening to drop the book). Now, if you read the blogs you’re already seeing predictions about how long these characters will stay dead because after all, we’ve all seen Warlock and Gamora (doesn’t she have a healing factor anyway?) killed before – only to be resurrected – though I would point out that it was often years later before they were brought back to life.

Others have pointed out that it’s unlikely that, as death’s avatar, Phyla will stay dead. Likewise we’ve seen Mantis brought back to life as recently as the Conquest mini-series. We’ve also seen Captain Victory’s demise from containment suit breach before – only to have him come back to life.

I think the most jarring death for me and for most of the fans was that of Cosmo. I know I certainly had a dismayed WTF moment when that happened akin to what I might have experienced, if while watching classic TV, I witnessed Timmy suddenly whip out a gun and shoot Lassie in the head. From reading the blogs, I don’t think I was alone in that reaction. I mean – people really like dogs – especially Labradors – and especially anthropomorphized dogs (as just about every dog owner anthropomorphizes their beloved pet). Also, lots of people (mistakenly IMO) believe the true strength of Guardians of the Galaxy rests on the anthropomorphic characters of Rocket, Groot, and Cosmo – and those folks are really pissed right about now at having lost one of the triumvirate of anthropomorphics. I’ve seen some bloggers and dog lovers threatening to drop the book because of Cosmo’s death.

Giving everything above due consideration, I have to wonder if making a dramatic point by killing half the cast was really worth it if a substantial number of paying customers were alienated or offended to the point that they drop the book. Couldn’t everyone have just been knocked out or wounded? For that matter, why didn’t Starlord just use the cosmic cube to resurrect everyone and erase the Magus from Warlock’s reality? If the issue is paring down a cast of characters that has become too large and unwieldy, couldn’t some members have just been rotated off for awhile like they do in the ever changing roster of any of the Avengers titles? If someone absolutely had to die to give the story gravitas; couldn’t DnA have just killed Warlock? After all, there’s (apparently) another Warlock waiting in a cocoon; so the Warlock fans wouldn’t have been too upset.

Speaking of gravitas, let’s talk about Craig’s much debated art. From the blogosphere, it appears to me that about half of the fans like Craig’s art and about half of the fans don’t like Craig’s art for Guardians of the Galaxy. In contrast, the Guardians of the Galaxy oriented renderings of Walker, Pelltier, and Alves are consistently liked by the majority of the fans. The issue is not about Craig’s talent as an artist. He clearly is a talented artist. The issue is whether or not his cartoonish style serves the story well or detracts from the story. The general consensus for at least half the fans seems to be that Craig’s art detracts from the gravity of the subject matter. I ask the question: Can this book afford to be displeasing half the fans with art that they don’t like? I think the answer is no. Personally, I prefer the more photo-realistic take of some of the other artists listed above for books that are addressing more mature subject matter. If I’m paying $2.99 or more for a comic book that I’m done reading in five minutes; I expect to open the book and see beautiful people depicted. If I want to see ugly cartoonish people, I don’t have to pay. I can drive 5 blocks down the street to the Super-Wal-Mart, walk through the store, and see as many ugly cartoonish people as I like free of cost.

Turning to some art I did like, Garner’s cover art for #19 was very well done. I think it is among the best of the series thus far.

Back to the writing for a moment, did anyone else feel like the story got too rushed toward the end? I would have liked to have seen the destruction of the Universal Church of Truth rather than just read about it. Also, where are the bodies of the lost comrades and where are their weapons (Gamora’s Sword, Phyla’s Sword, Major Victory’s shield)? Left behind? For that matter, where is the cosmic cube? Too much was crammed into those last panels and I didn’t like the seeming finality of the end of the storyline. It felt like I was reading the last issue of a series rather than the most recent issue of an ongoing. I fear that this approach has given some of the wavering fans a convenient jumping off point.

In the final analysis, Guardians of the Galaxy #19 had its good points and its questionable points. #19’s storyline is a huge gamble on the part of DnA; and the stakes are the book’s survivability in an increasingly competitive market. Of course it remains to be seen if the gamble paid off in terms of improving sales and garnering new readership; or if it drove established readers away. I’m hoping the gamble paid off because I want to see Guardians of the Galaxy have a long, bright future. I’m staying onboard for the duration of this book and I urge all the other fans to be patient and let DnA work more of their magic.

Innovative, exhilarating, unpredictable, and just downright fun; Guardians of the Galaxy gives us a rollercoaster ride through the cosmos each month. I can’t wait to see what happens in issue #20.

Article by: Bill Meneese

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Shame on Shamus: Big Apple Con to Compete With NYCC

News: Big Apple Con vs NYCC

It is reported at various outlets across the internet that Gareb Shamus has announced his Big Apple Con(job) will compete with the New York Comic Con, both set to be held next year on the same weeked, October 7th-10th and a few miles apart from one another.

I’m not a big fan of Gareb Shamus and his rag mag Wizard. As I see it, that magazine lost its magic a long time ago.

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Guardians of the Galaxy #18 Review

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Wesley Craig

Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn

Cover Artist: Pasqual Ferry

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

I really like it that DnA are mining the Marvel vaults for cosmic characters that have lain dormant for far too long. This issue gives us original Guardians of the Galaxy, Killraven, and Hollywood (a future, aged version of Wonder Man). What more need I say? With a lineup like that, you know you’re in for a helluva ride and, as always, DnA do not disappoint.

To recap, #18 picks up where Star-Lord’s portion of the team (Mantis, Bug, Cosmo, Flagg) left off in #16. It seems that Star-Lord’s team is lost in time and space, being randomly thrown from one alternate reality to the next (kind of like the old Time Tunnel series); but always ending up in a reality on the date Friday January 13th, 3009. The effect also has them aging at different rates with Star-Lord being an old man, Bug now a teenager, Cosmo a puppy, and Mantis an infant. Strangely, Flagg is immune from the aging effect but seems to be fading away into insubstantiality. The team arrives in a future version of NYC where a team consisting of Killraven, Hollywood, Charlie 27, Starhawk, and Nikki (calling themselves the Guardians of the Galaxy) are in the midst of battle with the “Martians” of Killraven’s time. Our Guardians aid the alternate Guardians in their fight; overcoming the Martians. Starhawk reveals that Star-Lord’s team must find a way back to their reality and time or they will cease to exist. Both teams decide to raid the ruins of Avengers Mansion so Killraven’s team may use the weapons stored there against the Martians and so Star-Lord’s team may use Doom’s time machine to get home. Just as the team fights their way into the mansion’s weapon’s cache; time-space shifts again and Star-Lord’s team is whisked away to another reality before they can use the time machine. They end up in a reality controlled by The Magus and are immediately attacked by operatives of the UCT.

DnA are to be commended once again for a story that delivers drama, excitement, and a flat out fun time. I appreciate their ability to take an enormous cast of disparate B and C list characters from Marvel’s dim and distant cosmic past; and develop them into complex characters that we care about by putting them in an A list story. Just goes to show you that the old adage, “there are no bad characters,” is true. It all boils down to the writing; and DnA are a powerhouse of a writing team.

I really enjoyed seeing Killraven again after such a long absence. Having always been a Wonder Man fan, I was also excited to see Hollywood in this book. I hope DnA find a way to bring these two back for some more adventures with the new Guardians. The developing friendship between alternate Charlie 27’s and Flagg has been a fun element across this story arc as well. Speaking of Flagg, I am wondering what DnA have planned for him. He’s been the “duck out of water” character since he was introduced to the team; but he now seems poised to take on a much more important role. I hope he isn’t being written out of the book as I’ve started to like this character being part of the team.

Some think that the magic of this book rests solely on the shoulders of Rocket Raccoon and Groot. Issue #18 should lay that theory to rest. The magic of this book is in the interaction of the ensemble – which is amply demonstrated in this issue where Rocket and Groot are absent.

This story begins the process of bringing the two halves of the current Guardians back together into what will no doubt be a major throwdown with The Magus. I hear another long absent cosmic alumnus will be making an appearance in this book quite soon – namely Kang. I’ll be anxiously awaiting Kang’s return and wondering who will be brought back next from Marvel’s past to mix it up with the team – John Carter? The Micronauts? Rom Spaceknight? Whoever DnA bring back, I’m sure they’ll give us a memorable story.

Ferry once again delivers magnificent cover art for #18. It really is one of my favorite covers for the series thus far. Fairbairn’s colors are nicely done – being the perfect complement to Craig’s art. As to Craig’s art – I will say that I liked his art this time quite a bit better than I liked his previous work on this series. I don’t know if he’s growing into the look of this title or if I’m just getting used to the jarring stylistic differences between Craig and Walker. In either case, I still prefer the more realistic take of Walker on this book. Craig is obviously a talented artist, but the more “Saturday morning cartoonish” style of his art is just not right for this particular book.

Guardians of the Galaxy consistently delivers the perfect balance of action, adventure, humor, drama, excitement, and unpredictability. Bar none, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of Marvel’s finest books; and if you’re not reading it – call your local comics shop right now and add it to your pull list. You’ll be glad you did.

Article by: Bill Meneese

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Review: Nova #29 (Marvel Comics)

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Kevin Sharpe

Colorist: Bruno Hang

Cover Artist: Brandon Peterson

 

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

I was thoroughly pleased with last month’s issue of Nova. This month’s issue is a mixed bag. Some things I liked quite a bit and some things I didn’t like at all. I’ll explain in some detail what I liked and didn’t like. So, this review is going to be longer than usual. As always, let’s begin with a recap of this month’s story.

At the end of last month’s issue, the reformed Corps was faced with their first major mystery: A ship looking remarkably like Rhomann Dey’s starship from The Man Called Nova #1 (1976) was found within The Fault. In Issue #29, we learn that the ship is actually an Upholder Class ship of the line, named the Resolute Duty, lost some 35 years ago. The Worldmind detects life signs aboard the ship and Rich and a few of his crew of Corps recruits (now reduced to Denarian rank, issued red uniforms, and referred to as Probationers) rush over to board it and investigate. The team splits up and begins to investigate each section of the ship, finding it in disrepair and with no obvious inhabitants. Meanwhile, a mysterious cloaked figure seeks to stop The Worldmind’s scans of the ship by attacking The Worldmind with nanotechnology. The nanotechnology attack takes The Worldmind offline, causing the Probationers left on Nu-Xandar to briefly consider disobeying orders and rushing out to help Rich. Rich is then attacked by the sole surviving member of the Resolute Duty crew, Centurion Zan Philo, who has reportedly been carrying out his duty as a Corpsman for the past 35 years even though he was way outside of his jurisdiction in an alternate universe. Philo quickly realizes that Rich is the Nova Prime and joins forces with the Corps against The Worldmind’s attacker, revealed as the bounty hunter Monark Starstalker (from Marvel Premiere #32, published in 1976). Starstalker fights the Corps to a standstill and then demands that Philo release one the prisoners held in the Resolute Duty’s brig so Starstalker can collect the prisoner’s bounty. The Worldmind comes back online, but in The Worldmind’s absence, Ego has come back to life and is in the process of evicting the Corps from its surface. The issue ends on a cliffhanger with “Mindless Ones” (yeah – just like the ones from Dr. Strange) attacking the Resolute Duty to free the mysterious prisoner that is Starstalker’s quarry.

I think Issue #29 is best understood as a transitional issue, marking a turning point in the series from a single-character-focused book to an ensemble-focused book. As such, many old plot points/devices had to be efficiently wrapped, new plot points/devices had to be introduced, and new character development had to be undertaken. That’s a full plate for any one issue of any comic; and few writers would be able to succeed in pulling off such a feat with any measure of coherency. I am happy to say that the immensely skilled DnA did succeed in accomplishing this Herculean task; but purely as a result of being transitional, #29 ended up being one of the more mediocre issues of the series thus far.

That being said, there were many things I liked about #29. I especially liked the (apparent) addition of the Resolute Duty starship to the cast. I refer to it as an addition to the “cast” both because it’s onboard sentient PRIME quantum computer, if still active or repairable, would qualify it as having a personality; and because there is a long tradition in popular SF series (e.g., Battlestar Galactica; all the Star Trek franchises) of treating starships (even non-sentient ones) as “cast” members. As a 33 year Nova fan, I really appreciate DnA’s obvious respect and affection for the Nova mythos in resurrecting a version of the iconic starship that helped capture the imagination of so many of us long term fans when it was originally depicted on the cover and first pages of The Man Called Nova #1 (1976). I’ve always maintained that one of the many lost opportunities of the first Nova series and every subsequent series featuring Nova was the under-utilization of the starship (whose name is unknown; though most fans simply refer to it as “The Nova Prime Starship” or “Rhomann Dey’s Starship”) that brought Rhomann Dey to Earth. DeFalco seemed to grasp the iconic stature of the ship; making it MC2 Nova’s base of operations in Spider-Girl and various other MC2 titles where MC2 Nova appeared; but otherwise, after the events of Rom #24, the 616 Marvel Universe was not (until recently) again graced with an appearance of this lovely ship which so elegantly balances the retro stylization of times gone by with the typical technical functionality we’ve come to expect from SF portrayals of military starships of the future. The original “Rhomann Dey Starship” was at first described as a unique experimental craft that was larger than several of the gas giant planets in our solar system combined; then immediately ret-conned by Marv Wolfman himself in the letters pages of The Man Called Nova as being vastly smaller (later referred to as more than a mile long). It has always been assumed by fans that the “Rhomann Dey” starship perished with the Champions of Xandar during Nebula’s attack on Xandar which precipitated both the Second Fall of Xandar (Avengers #260; 1985) and the re-activation of Rich Rider’s dormant Nova powers (New Warriors #1; 1990). I really liked it that DnA made the effort to establish some specific parameters for the Resolute Duty (e.g., 3 miles long; designated by a keel number; identified as an “Upholder Class Nova Corps Patrol Cruiser”). To me, the class and cruiser designations imply that the Upholder Class Patrol Cruisers were fairly commonplace ships of the line which saw action near the time of the First Fall of Xandar (as described in The Man Called Nova #1; 1976 and Fantastic Four #’s 204-214); but not during Xandar’s earlier Imperial Era (as seen in Uncanny Origins #4; 1996), as Xandar’s ships of the line during the Imperial Era bore no resemblance to Upholder Class Starships. Likewise, after the Second Fall of Xandar (Avengers #260) and up to the near present (Annihilation Prologue); Xandar’s ships of the line bore no resemblance to Upholder Class Starships. How are we continuity slaves to reconcile the apparent commonplace status of Upholder Class Starships with the original portrayal of Dey’s ship as unique? Was Dey’s ship perhaps an experimental refit of an older starship (shades of Star Trek’s Enterprise NCC-1701 being refitted and re-designated NCC-1701-A)? Was Dey’s ship perhaps merely a smaller, newer, unique version of a tried and true design? The answer remains to be seen; but – enough of my geek fest surrounding the starship.

Moving on, I also liked it that the Corps will (apparently) soon be abandoning Ego. I just never liked the Corps being headquartered on The Living Planet; so Ego evicting them is fine by me. Hopefully, they’ll move into The Resolute Duty and make it their new HQ for awhile.

I really like the new ensemble cast of characters. A recurring cast is exactly what this series needed. For the Lone Ranger adherents; don’t fret – there’s still room for reasons to be contrived to send Rich Rider off for solo adventures.

I was happy to see the return of Monark Starstalker. DnA are to be commended for resurrecting Marvel cosmic characters from times past who have lain dormant for far too long.

The Philo character was intriguing; but some questions are nagging at me. Why didn’t The Worldmind recognize him? Is he who he says he is? What happened to his crewmates? Finally, does he really have to over-use the “ultra” qualifier? I realize a catch-phrase is being established; but come on – it doesn’t have near the charm and potential of say – “I am Groot” – and it actually could become ultra-annoying after awhile (see – now he’s got me doing it).

Now for some things I didn’t like. First up – art nit-picks. As to the red uniforms and glowing chest stars for the probationers, I have only two words: design flaw. Bright red things (e.g., Stop signs, fire trucks, fire alarm switches, etc.) and glowing things are designed to grab attention by standing out from the background. What military issues red uniforms to their troops these days? I think the British dropped the red coats a loooong time ago for good reason. Also, why are standard uniforms’ chests stars suddenly starting to glow? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Irani’s glowing boobs as much as the next man; but the chest stars on a standard uniform have never glowed before – and it’s another bad idea in that it’s akin to painting a target on one’s chest before entering battle. No military is going to design uniforms to make troops easier visual targets. Speaking of easier visual targets, what’s with all the billowy clouds and contrails surrounding the lower torso’s of every Corpsman in flight? What could possibly be forming clouds and contrails in the vacuum of space? All these things are annoying artistic flourishes that really need to go. What should replace them you say? Well, for a start, what’s wrong with merely making the probationers lower ranking Corpsmen (e.g., Denarians or Millennians) in the appropriately rank designated standard Navy-Gold uniform? These red-shirted (and don’t think for even a moment that the SF symbolism of red-shirtedness was lost on me) probationers have Denarian chest stars and Centurion helmet stars. Is that intentional or an artistic mistake? I really wish Marvel would print a copy of the rank designations for the uniforms from the Novaprimepage database and issue it to all the artists for the book so these distracting ranking mistakes on the uniforms will cease. Also, these are flying soldiers – essentially living weapons designed by an advanced civilization. They are not 21st Century jet planes. I would think an advanced science would work to eliminate clouds and contrails while their living weapons are in flight in atmosphere (and there should be no clouds/contrails in the vacuum of space anyway).

Other than those nit-picks about the art described above, I was fairly satisfied with Sharpe’s work on this issue. Of course, Hang continues to do an outstanding job as colorist.

The loss of quantum radio contact with The Worldmind is starting to be an overused plot device. I use the term “quantum radio” because I know of no other method than quantum entanglement to allow instantaneous communication between The Worldmind and Corpsmen separated by many light years. Disrupting a quantum radio communication would not be impossible; but it wouldn’t be easy. This is a plot device that needs re-thinking.

The most annoying thing about this issue was once again having the Corps reduced to being a bunch of push-overs in a fight. I know that the point was to establish Starstalker as a bad-ass; but let’s not forget the Corps went toe-to-toe with The Imperial Guard last issue and gave an admirable accounting of themselves. I’m just having a hard time believing that a blind guy with a Seeing Eye robot bird could best Rich and four other Corpsmen at the same time.

Likewise, I was disappointed that The Worldmind went down so easily. No or inadequate defense against nano-tech? What!? I would surmise that the Nova Corps uniforms are nano-tech based given their morphing and self-repair functions. Besides, what advanced civilization would be totally buffaloed by nano-tech? I mean, our own civilization is beginning rudimentary use of nano-tech; so I would expect that a civilization many thousands of years advanced from us would have mastered it by now.

Speaking of The Worldmind, I’m still on the fence about the Ko-Rel personality imprint. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Ko-Rel during the Conquest arc. She worked wonderfully as an actual Corpsman. As the embodiment of The Worldmind though – well, she’s just not working for me so far. I’m just not feelin’ her smart-assy, bitchy, informal Worldmind personality. I’ll give it a few more issues to make sure; but if she doesn’t start to warm up, I’m going to start hoping for a reboot. Hey Ko fans, she can always be resurrected in the flesh via cloning once Xandar is rebuilt. In the meantime, maybe the Resolute Duty has a back-up copy of the original Worldmind personality stored in its PRIME computer.

So, in summary, #29 is not the best issue of Nova to date; but it is far from the worst. I expect once #29 is read in the context of what I expect to happen in #30, it’s ranking on my Nova favorites scale will move up a few notches. In the meantime, this series is still very safe on my pull list. As far as I’m concerned, even a mediocre transitional issue of Nova beats everything the competition has to offer. Quite simply, Nova is comicdom’s undisputed King of military science-fiction epic adventure.
 

Article by: Bill Meneese

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Jim Gibbons Let Go From Wizard

News: Wizard

The Associate Editor, Jim Gibbons, from Wizard Magazine has been let go.

This came across my desk earlier today, as news about Wizard’s latest employee release was made known late last night.

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Review: Nova #28 (Marvel Comics)

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Andrew Devito

Colorist: Bruno Hang

Cover Artist: Daniel Acuna

Variant Cover: Mike Perkins

 

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

DnA have done it again! Nova #28 is a masterstroke of superheroic military science-fiction. The Rich Rider from Annihilation is finally back and I say: “Long May He Reign!”

This issue picks up right where #27 left off. Rich gives Xenith a beating and captures her. The new Corpsmen step up to the plate as well; with Morrow and Irani putting the Imperial Guard in their place quite efficiently. Rich negotiates for the withdrawal of the Corps from Kree-Lar with Blastaar in a quite clever sequence; and the Corpsmen gather up their prisoners – along with the wounded Robbie Rider – and return to Nu-Xandar. Back at Nu-Xandar we learn that the Corps has been disbanded down to a small group including four of the original five new recruits (Morrow, Fraktur, Qubit, Irani) as well as the humans, Tre and Lindy. Wendell Vaughn is also present; but quickly takes his leave to learn more about both his new body and the mysterious fault in time and space caused by the explosion of the Inhumans’ echo weapon at the conclusion of War of Kings. Rich admits he was both right and wrong about reconstituting the Corps; deciding in the end to allow the remaining Corpsmen the opportunity to be the “core” of a new Corps which is to be rebuilt slowly over time. Robbie is invited to be part of the new Corps. It is learned that, unsurprisingly, Ego is recovering faster than expected; so the Corps will need to find a new home in the near future. In the meantime, they stargate to the fault to see what, if anything, can be done. Upon arrival, they are surprised to receive a Xandarian distress signal. Upon further investigation, they are shocked to discover a ship that Rich Rider thought he would never see again.

There’s so much to love about this issue, I don’t know where to start. So, I’ll begin at the beginning. I heartily enjoyed the opening sequence. As anyone who has read any of my columns before knows, I am no fan of Strontians. So, as you might imagine, I savored every panel of the opening fight where Rich opens up a can of whoop-ass on Xenith and gives the beeyotch the well deserved beating she’s been asking for throughout the course of War of Kings. My only disappointment is that he didn’t kill her. I think he may end up regretting that decision. I know I regret his decision. I want her and her cousin, Gladiator, dirt-napped ASAP. Nevertheless, his guile in defeating her is much appreciated; showing that Rich has finally graduated from the “brass-knuckled hot-headed street fighter unthinkingly flying in and slugging it out” mentality that has plagued the Nova character for far too long now; to the mentality of the seasoned, strategizing, battle-hardened veteran that he is and should continue to be from now on. No more characterization inconsistency please! Finally, I was also touched by the homage to Doug Smith’s Novaprimepage in this sequence where Rich refers to consulting the Novapedia. That’s a nice shout out from DnA to Doug and to the legions of other loyal uber-Nova-fans worldwide who have kept the Nova flame burning through thick and thin for the past 33 years; and we all appreciated it.

The Morrow and Irani scene was extremely well done; and I want to thank DnA for finally portraying the Corps as the competent and effective soldiers that they should be; rather than the “red shirts” portrayal of the Corps that has permeated Corps portrayals in recent era comics. Not since the Second Xandar-Skrull War (as seen in Fantastic Four #’s 204-214; and Rom #24) has the Corps been portrayed as the competent fighting force that made Xandar a power to be reckoned with during their days of Empire (as seen in Uncanny Origins #4). Issue #28 of Nova restored my hope that the Corps can regain their former glory.

For the next sequence, I need to stop, take a deep breath, and consider something for a moment. Rich Rider as diplomat. Wow! Who’d have ever expected that?! Home run DnA! The sequence where Rich, like Teddy Roosevelt, “speaks softly and carries a big stick” is flat out brilliant. Once again, it bespeaks that level of maturity and competence that Rich gained during Annihilation; but has inexplicably shown rarely and inconsistently throughout the first 28 issues of Nova. Rich’s calm confidence both in battle and at the diplomatic table in this issue of Nova is the proper demeanor for a leader of men; and is a welcome change from the tiresome adolescent cocky bravado of past characterizations.

The sequence on Nu-Xandar is quite well done. I was cheered by Rich’s decision to re-constitute the Corps. It’s about d’ast time. A recurring cast of interesting and exciting characters is exactly what this series needs; and this first batch of Corps recruits is just the ticket. Some of these characters (who are already building fan bases BTW) will no doubt be tragically lost as the Corps is rebuilt; bringing the series some much needed edgy drama. Speaking of edgy drama, I’m guessing there will once again be some conflict between Rich and Robbie now that Robbie will be sticking around as a Corpsman; as the sibling rivalry thing between Rich and Robbie will require further exploration. Further, I was pleased to learn that the Corps will soon need to abandon Ego for a more suitable home base. I want to lobby for something beginning here and now. Tranta is the traditional home base for Xandar and we know the Orienta Shard survived the Annihilation War. If you’re listening DnA, send the new Corps back to Tranta and make the Orienta Shard the permanent base for the new Nova Corps.

The final scene where the Nova Prime starship was discovered was totally unexpected. I have always admired the trippy design of that ship and was overjoyed to see its return. Is it just shading or did the ship look battle damaged? Is it the same ship we originally saw in The Man Called Nova #1 long assumed to have been destroyed by Nebula during the Second Fall of Xandar? Is it the M2 Universe Nova dropping in for a visit? Will Monark Starstalker be found aboard the ship? I guess we have to wait another month to find out. Whatever the mystery of the ship turns out to be, I want to lobby for something else now. Please DnA, keep the ship around! The Corps needs a flagship and I can’t think of a better one than Rhomann Dey’s starship. I hope the onboard PRIME computer is up and running as I enjoyed Rich’s interaction with it during the original run of the series.

Finally, there were a bunch of nuances I liked. First, the “Prime” nickname for Rich. I like that. I hope it’s a keeper. Secondly – the further revelations about gravimetric powers in the sequences with Morrow and Robbie. Morrow’s bounce-back of the Uncreated’s projectiles is an application that we haven’t seen before; and Rich’s talk with Robbie supports long held fan theories about Nova Force being related to graviton manipulation. Thirdly, the set up for Quasar’s return to the spaceways. It was great to see Wendell Vaughn back on the job as Protector of the Universe. I can’t wait for his Realm of Kings one-shot. Hopefully, we will be seeing a lot more of Wendell in the future as it is rumored that he will be joining the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy. Finally, I liked the rescue of Raza Longknife and hope to see him rejoin the Starjammers soon.

There was one thing I didn’t like. Ravenous’ portrayal was inconsistent with his portrayal in Annihilation. In Annihilation, Ravenous went toe-to-toe with Firelord, Silver Surfer, and Ronan. He was portrayed as a tough, arrogantly confident being with Herald strength powers. However, for the past two issues of Nova, he’s been portrayed as weak and cowardly. I don’t get it. Does he have Herald strength or not? I know some fans have attributed his seeming lack of Herald strength powers to the conspicuous absence of his Currs, the apparent method he uses to channel Opposing Force. Whatever the reason, Ravenous was out of character for the past two issues and this change in characterization was not adequately explained in the storyline.

Turning now to art and colors, I can only say once again that Divito’s depictions are magnificent to behold. I hope he stays on this book for the rest of the book’s run because no one does Nova better than Divito. Ditto for Hang as colorist. Acuna delivered another solid cover portraying the Corp in a military ground assault. This cover and the cover to #27 are among my top favorites for the series thus far. I was lucky enough to score one of Perkins’ Variant Edition covers and I must say his depiction of Nova is quite impressive. If Divito ever has to take a break, I wouldn’t mind seeing what Perkins could do with the art for the book.

In the off chance that it’s not obvious by the tone of this review, I heartily recommend that you buy this issue of Nova and add the series to your pull list each month. I think if DnA continue to take the character in the direction of issue #28, this series will have a bright future. I really hope Marvel will start to market the military science-fiction fans as I think the storyline and the covers to this and last issue would really pique their interest and raise sales. Quite simply, Nova consistently raises the bar for superheroic military science-fiction. Thirty days is too long to wait for next month’s installment!

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Guardians of the Galaxy #17 Review

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Brad Walker

Colorist: Jay David Ramos

Cover Artist: Daniel Acuna

 

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

It’s like a Christmas morning experience once per month on the day Marvel releases each new issue of Guardians of the Galaxy. I can’t wait to open each issue and savor the surprises contained within. No character is safe and anything can happen in this book – as was proved over and over again in Issue #17.

To recap, Warlock receives Starlord’s message from the future; but before he can act, the T-Bomb is detonated, tearing a hole in space-time which is quickly dubbed “The Fault.” Gamora and Warlock depart to try to repair The Fault; while Rocket, Groot, and the rest of the team transport to Attitlan to make sure the Inhumans don’t detonate any more T-Bombs. The Guardians arrive on Attitlan and the recriminations fly, leading to a scuffle; but the argument/scuffle are cut short when Attitlan is attacked by a large creature emerging from The Fault. The Inhumans and the Guardians join forces to stop the creature; but the Inhumans are also in a race against time to stop Attitlan from falling into The Fault. Maximus and Groot devise a plan to save the city. Their plan works and Martyr departs to aid Warlock and Gamora in their efforts to repair The Fault. Warlock succeeds in freezing the advance of The Fault. In a surprise move, Martyr then stabs him through the chest to fulfill her pact with Oblivion. Gamora kills Martyr in reprisal and rushes to assist Warlock. Warlock regains consciousness; but immediately transforms into The Magus! The Magus snaps Gamora’s neck and throws her into The Fault.

This is going to be a tough review because there’s nothing wrong with this issue of the series. I do want to mention several things I really liked. To begin with, the team has really come together as a powerful, effective, and well functioning strike force. Unfortunately, this occurs just in time for the team to be fractured into several units and for two founding members to be (apparently) killed. I do hope that the deaths of Martyr and Gamora will somehow be reversed by the conditions of The Fault; as Gamora is a favorite character (especially now that she is fully healed and has her hair back); and Martyr was just beginning to become interesting.

As usual, Rocket and Groot steal the show. Smart-assy hilarity spews from Rocket nearly every time he opens his mouth. The great thing about Rocket is that he is able to get away with all the humor without becoming a buffoonish character that nobody takes seriously. Rocket may be small in stature; but he is great in leadership – and a fighter I’d be happy to have at my side in a serious scrape. DnA finally explain why Groot went from haughtily loquacious in past characterizations to the rapidly losing its humorous appeal single-phrased “I am Groot.” It turns out that Groot is not only still loquacious – but also a towering genius at physics; and Maximus can understand all the nuances of meaning in what others hear as Groot merely repeating his name. It was nice to see Groot broken out of his role as the dumb lumbering powerhouse of the team – and using his until now hidden great intellect to save the day rather than just smashing everything that crosses his path. I hope a method is found to better communicate with Groot as it would be fun to see this aspect of the character further developed.

That final sequence with Warlock transforming into The Magus was not entirely unexpected. Nevertheless, it adds a fine new twist to The Guardians’ storyline and I look forward to seeing where DnA take us next.

I heartily welcome Walker’s return to the fold as artist this month. He’s really made this book his own; and I hope he stays on as artist for a good long time. Ramos’ colors are commendable as well. Acuna’s cover art for Guardians of the Galaxy is quite good, but he’s spoiled me with his more exciting cover art on the last three issues of Nova. Specifically, the action portrait shot of Warlock, Black Bolt, Gamora, and Medusa is technically well executed; but not particularly interesting, exciting, or an attention grabber. I just don’t think it’s going to motivate any first time reader to pick this book off the shelf to check it out.

In short, DnA deliver to us once again a nice hot cup of outstanding cosmic para-military action-adventure. The Guardians of the Galaxy are truly the “Cosmic Avengers” that many have been asking for over the past several years; and I don’t understand why Avengers fans aren’t flocking to this book. Add this one to your pull list folks. It deserves a prominent place there for the foreseeable future.

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Guardians of the Galaxy #16 Review

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Wesley Craig

Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn

Cover Artist: Pasqual Ferry

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

Original Guardians of the Galaxy, contemporary Guardians of the Galaxy, Badoon, Celestials, Avenger’s Mansion, Dr. Doom’s Time Machine, and fan favorite Cosmo saving the day! Man – I’m telling you – this issue has it all in terms of story! DnA manage to once again amaze readers by deftly delivering an engaging and exciting tale built around an enormous and disparate cast of characters.

Picking up where last issue left off, Starhawk uses Dr. Doom’s Time Machine to abduct Starlord, Cosmo, Mantis, Bug, and Jack Flag; spiriting them away to a time 1000 years into the future where the Badoon rule what is left of space-time – an area the size of the solar system kept intact by an enormous engine composed of Celestials and built around the sun. Upon arrival, the original Guardians attack the contemporary Guardians for an interesting and fun throw down. When both teams call a time out, it is learned that the universe has collapsed due to Black Bolt’s detonation of a doomsday bomb during the WOK conflict. To save themselves, the Badoon used a Cosmic Cube to enslave the Celestials and keep the collapse of the universe at bay with the Celestials’ powers. The Guardians fight their way through Badoon resistance and destroy the Celestial engine, causing the last of space-time to collapse; but not before Cosmo gets a message through to Adam Warlock. The message is simple: Stop Black Bolt.

I want to compliment Pasqual Ferry. I really enjoyed his cover art featuring the original Guardians of the Galaxy. Unfortunately, the interior art leaves much to be desired. Craig is a good artist and his style was tolerable for issues #11 and #12 as they took place in an abstract realm of the universe. However, his style is just not right for this book at this time. It looks rushed and Saturday morning cartoon-ish. This style would be fine for some books; but frankly it detracts from GoTG and makes the action sequences and the overall reading experience less enjoyable. If I have one overall criticism of GoTG it’s that the art has been inconsistent across the entire run of the series to date. This book needs a regular artist like Walker, Alves, or Devito. Here’s hoping that Walker is back soon and is hired to be the regular artist for this title.

DnA weave a fine tale for the first meeting of the entire original GoTG team with the contemporary team. They also up the stakes for the Guardian’s involvement in WOK, making it critical that they intervene to stop the war before the war results in the collapse of space-time that Warlock has been warning about since issue #1. I was happy to see Cosmo playing a critical role in events for the first time in this series. He is one of the stand-out characters and really hasn’t gotten enough face time in the series until this issue. The other little moments in the issue where the original characters get to know the contemporary characters were also nicely done.

GoTG is one of Marvel’s best titles month after month. I really hope WOK gives it a much needed boost in sales so that it stays around a good long time.

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Review: Nova #27 (Marvel Comics)

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Andrew Devito

Colorist: Bruno Hang

Cover Artist: Daniel Acuna

 

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

This issue is everything Nova should be – tightly paced, beautiful to behold from cover-to-cover, exciting, and fun. Rich is at his most effective since Annihilation; showing once and for all why he deserves to wear the uniform of The Nova Prime. DnA hit a home run with this issue guys!

Rich, Morrow, and Irani are in a race against time to rescue Robbie from the besieged Kree-Lar as Shi’ar and Negative Zone troops under Blastaar’s command decimate Ravenous’ defenders. Robbie has managed to capture Strontian; but is having a difficult time holding her down in a gravimetric field. Rich and company must fight their way through Blastaar’s troops and Ravenous’ defenders before Strontian breaks free and kills Robbie. The last page is a real cliff hanger.

First, I want to compliment the art. Devito’s rendering of the art for this issue is incredible to behold. Not since Annihilation in the modern era or the Buscema brothers work on Man Called Nova in the 70’s has Nova art been done so well. My hat is off to Devito’s work on this series. Long may he reign. I also loved Acuna’s cover art. The Corps power dive through AAA flak toward the surface of a planet is as exciting in execution as it is magnificent in scope. It is a masterpiece in military SF art that I would be proud to hang on my wall if Marvel ever turns it into a poster (shameless hint intended). Hang’s coloring perfectly complements Devito’s art for a completely satisfying comic art experience.

Speaking of completely satisfying, I am going to have a hard time finding anything to actually criticize about this issue. DnA delivered a fine military SF story – the sub-genre in which Nova works best in my humble opinion. The characterization of Rich Rider in this issue is exactly what it should be. There is no hesitation. There are no amateurish mistakes. He is at his most decisive, most effective, and deadliest best. He is a true military leader. This is the Rich Rider I expect to see now – a seasoned, battle-hardened military veteran doing his job – albeit with a personal stake this time as he must rescue his brother.

We didn’t see much of the Ko-Rel Worldmind this time out – so I’m still not sure how well she’s going to work. I know some fans are not liking her – and I’m a bit skeptical about having a bitchy (her words, not mine) Worldmind in RR’s head – but I’m going to reserve judgment a while longer until I see where DnA are taking this.

I hate Strontian almost as much as her cousin, Gladiator; and I hope she gets her ass handed to her next issue as I am constantly annoyed by their “belief-based” powers. Speaking of Strontian and her powers, I’m glad to see my opinions from columns and blogs past vindicated in this issue. It seems that gravity does indeed overcome “belief-based” power.

Marvel has a cosmic gem on their hands with this property and I hope they continue to push Nova in the direction of space-based military SF storylines. From advance solicits, it appears that the Corps is around to stay, so I’m happy to hear Nova will now have a recurring supporting cast of characters. All Rich needs now is a romantic interest to make this series complete.

From beginning to end, #27 will keep you on the edge of your seat and make you wish this issue had been double-sized this month. Pick this one up and tell all your friends that they need to be reading Nova every month.

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Guardians of the Galaxy #15 Review

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Writers: Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

Artist: Brad Walker

Colorist: Jay David Ramos

Cover Artist: Salvador Larroca

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

Once again Abnett and Lanning show us why Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the best books Marvel puts on the shelves each month. I just can’t understand why this book is only a mediocre seller. It really is much better than most of Marvel’s top sellers.

The story picks up at the start of the melee that was set up at the end of issue #14 with the Guardians facing off against the Inhuman Royal Family and the Shi’ar Imperial Guard. The Inhumans rescue Crystal from Phyla’s attempt to use her as a hostage; but not before Starlord and Mantis reveal to Crystal the damage the War of Kings is doing to the space-time continuum. Lockjaw transports the Inhumans back to Hala; leaving the Imperial Guard and the Guardians locked in mortal combat. The Guardians use the diversion of the Inhumans departure to split into three smaller teams to more effectively engage the Imperial Guard. Gamora and Phyla are on one team while Starlord, Cosmo, Flagg, Bug, and Mantis are on another. Rocket, Groot, Drax and Captain Victory teleport in to make up the third team. Warlock goes solo to confront the Shi’ar magic user. Meanwhile, Starhawk manipulates Moondragon into setting her free. Warlock once again transforms into The Magus persona and kills the Shi’ar pursuing him. Starhawk abducts Starlord’s team. The other Guardians teams defeat or evade their pursuers; and then converge on the Continuum Cortex to drive the Imperial Guard off of Knowhere. As the remaining Guardians debrief; they are disturbed by a totally unexpected event – the severed head of the Celestial that is Knowhere suddenly comes back to life; and it’s looking for Warlock.

I thoroughly enjoyed #15 and I was impressed by DnA’s ability to tell such a fast-paced and engaging story using such a large and disparate cast of characters. It would be easy for some of these characters to get lost in the shuffle or for them to be given short shrift; but DnA gave each of them something important to do.

My favorite sequence in this issue is the first one where the Guardians are caught in the middle between the Inhumans and the Imperial Guard. My only complaint is that this sequence ended too quickly. I would have preferred to see some more action with all three teams fighting each other in a free for all. As it was, the Inhumans quit the field all too quickly.

Warlock’s sequence was intriguing. His abrupt transformations into the murderously psychotic Magus are jarring. The question in my mind is: are DnA feeding us a red herring? Is it really The Magus we’ve been dealing with since Annihilation? Who is in the cocoon being protected by the Universal Church of Truth?

Starhawk’s abduction of Starlord’s team is intriguing as well. Where did she take them? Interestingly, Cosmo was with them and I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing him in on the direct action.

The sequence where all the remaining Guardians converge on the Continuum Cortex and drive out the Imperial Guard was very satisfying. I always enjoy it when the Imperial Guard get their asses handed to them – and they made it clear that they were humiliated by being defeated by the Guardians.

The final sequence where the Celestial came back to life was a real shocker. I didn’t see that one coming and I can’t wait to see what DnA have in store for us with this development next issue.

I am a fan of Walker’s art. He consistently scores a home run with all the complex scenes and different characters being portrayed in the typical action packed GoTG story. Ramos’ colors perfectly complimented Walker’s art. I didn’t find the Larroca cover very satisfying though – and that’s disappointing because a cover featuring Cosmo and Rocket if done better would have been an instant favorite for me as I am so fond of those two characters.

I know this will come as a surprise to those of you who respond to my critiques in the forum, but try as I might, I really couldn’t find much to nit-pick about this issue. The story was engaging and plausible, the action was exciting, and the interior art was good. Quite simply, GoTG #15 was a thoroughly satisfying read and it remains one of Marvel’s consistently best offerings month after month. Here’s hoping GoTG has a long and glorious future.

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Review: Nova #26 (Marvel Comics)

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Written By: Dan Abnett
Andy Lanning

Artist: Andrea DiVito

Colorist: Bruno Hang

Cover Artist: Daniel Acuna

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

A Nova landmark was reached today. With the publication of issue #26, the current ongoing Nova series holds the distinction of being the longest running Nova series in the character’s 33 year history. It is a proud day for all Nova fans; and one I daresay many of us probably thought we might never see given the publication history of the previous three ongoing series, the longest running of which was The Man Called Nova which ran for 25 issues. I am happy to report that #26 is a satisfying issue that does the Nova legend proud.

Issue #26 begins with a Corps cohort surrounded, under Shi’ar fire, and desperately requesting emergency extraction. To the Cohort’s surprise, Nova Prime Rider shows up and saves the day by killing the attacking Imperial Guardsmen and destroying the attacking Shi’ar battleship. The cohort returns to Nu-Xandar where Rich announces that they are to be debriefed, de-powered, and discharged home. Some protest and Rich allows them to remain in the Corps – at least temporarily. Rich’s brother, Robbie, is MIA and his locator system has been disabled. Rich, accompanied by Irani and Morrow, leaves Nu-Xandar for Nil-Rast as Nil-Rast was Robbie’s last known location. Worldmind Ko-Rel reminds Rich that Nil-Rast was where she was murdered. Upon landing, Rich and company are attacked by the Inhuman Elite led by Triton. Ra-Venn is fighting along side the Inhumans, and, recognizing Rich, orders the Inhumans to stand down. Rich is taken to a gravely injured Qubit who cannot tell him Robbie’s fate. Triton then shows Rich thousands of Nova Corpsmen helmets – the evidence of Strontian’s war crimes. The story then shifts to the throne room of the besieged planet, Kree-Lar, where Ravenous is conferring with his Chancellor as the Shi’ar attack. The Annihilation forces are holding their own against the Shi’ar and are confident of a victory. Without warning, Strontian appears on a mission to kill Ravenous. She nearly completes her mission before she is pinned to the ground by gravimetric force. Robbie Rider has arrived to arrest Strontian for committing war crimes.

There’s a lot to like about #26. The first sequence where Rich rescues the Corps is my favorite sequence from this issue. In a matter of seconds he kills the attacking Imperial Guard and, almost as an afterthought, destroys a Shi’ar battleship – dramatically re-establishing himself as The Nova Prime through physical action as he says, “Hello you Shi’ar sons of schlags. Do I have your attention? Good. I am Richard Rider, The Nova Prime, and you have killed far, far too many of my Centurions.” When I read that sequence, I was jubilant – thinking to myself: It’s about damn time. Finally, the Rich Rider from Annihilation is back! In this sequence we saw Rich Rider calm, confident, mature, effective – a clear-headed, battle-hardened battlefield leader and warrior. This is the Annihilation Nova characterization that gained a new generation of fans and re-inspired us old geezers who’ve been fans since the original series began 33 years ago. This style of characterization of Nova has been seen only intermittently since Annihilation; and I fervently hope that we continue to see more of it.

The Nu-Xandar sequences were entertaining; but I was left with lots of questions. Why is Rich so determined to dismantle the Corps? Soldiers do die on the battlefield – but that’s no reason not to have an army. I agree that everyone who was unwillingly conscripted should be allowed to return to their home if they so desire; but what about those who continue to want to serve? It seems to me that they could be of tremendous help to Rich in terms of re-establishing order in the local group – especially in the aftermath of War of Kings. I also found it difficult to believe that the Worldmind couldn’t track down Robbie Rider. Finally, there’s Ko-Rel’s attitude. I mentioned in the review of #25 that, while the addition of Ko-Rel’s personality template for the Worldmind was a brilliant dramatic idea, it was unrealistic and perhaps even a dangerous solution given her mixed loyalties. In this issue she came across as….well….uh….bitchy. I’ll reserve judgment for now, but I’m hoping this is a plot device lifted from any Hugh Grant romantic comedy you care to name where the girl doesn’t like the guy at first but eventually discovers he’s not so bad and becomes more cordially disposed toward him. I don’t want to pay to see Rich become involved in the equivalent of a bad marriage. That just wouldn’t be fun or entertaining – and it would ruin the “buddy” adventure relationship with the Worldmind that has worked so well up to this point. I do derive some small comfort knowing that at least if the series embarks on a bad marriage sub-plot; Rich has an advantage the rest of us don’t have. When he’s had enough, he can just hit the re-boot button and select a new Worldmind personality while staying in the “relationship!”

The Nil-Rast sequence was really well done – but it did seem to me that there were perhaps some possible inconsistencies that need resolving. For instance, how is it that Centurions’ shields can stand up to Echo Weapons but not to Shi’ar battleship weapons? I would think the Echo Weapons would be more powerful. Rich’s growing cosmic reputation really paid off for him in this sequence, causing the Inhumans to stand down once they realized with whom they were dealing. Seeing the inner workings of Qubit was a highlight of this sequence as was Rich’s reaction when he learned of the atrocity committed against his Centurions by Strontian.

The final sequence with Strontian and Ravenous was entertaining; but again I thought there were some possible inconsistencies. I thought Ravenous was supposed to be as powerful as a Herald. If so, it seems to me he would have been able to hold his own against Strontian. I also want to see the last scene better explained. Did Robbie pin or capture Strontian with some sort of gravity trap? Is it like I’ve always said – he who controls gravitons wins? Will Strontian merely stand up and hand Robbie his ass next issue? How did Robbie get to Kree-Lar in the first place given that the Centurions at the beginning of this sequence could not generate stargates by themselves? For that matter, if it was that easy to pin Strontian, why didn’t Tarcel use the same technique on Gladiator?

Turning to art, Acuna’s cover art was enjoyable in that it expressed the spirit of this issue though it did not reflect the content of this issue. That is, Rich didn’t get to punch out Gladiator. I enjoyed this cover more than most of Acuna’s recent efforts. The 80’s “Dirty Dancing” variant cover was more pleasing artistically; though it neither reflected the content or the spirit of issue #26. DeVito’s interior art is magnificent as usual. The helmet stars are still not consistent though – with the Worlmind being portrayed with a six-point star; and Morrow with an 8 point star in one panel. Hang’s colors are outstanding as usual.

In short, #26 is record setting in Nova history; and it begins a new arc with Rich Rider hopefully re-gaining some of his Annihilation characterization for good. It is a fun read that ties in to War of Kings. Next issue, #27, looks to be gearing up for show down between Rich and Strontian. Now that’s a fight I don’t want to miss! If you’ve not read #26 yet, rush out and buy it. You’ll be glad you did.

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Guardians of the Galaxy: Earth Shall Overcome HC (2009) Review

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COVER BY: RON WILSON
WRITER: ARNOLD DRAKE
STEVE GERBER
GERRY CONWAY
ROGER SLIFER
LEN WEIN
CHRIS CLAREMONT
SCOTT EDELMAN
PENCILS: GENE COLAN
SAL BUSCEMA
DON HECK
VINCE COLLETTA
FRANK GIACOIA
JOHN TARTAGLIONE
COLORED BY: TOM SMITH

Collecting MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #18, MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #4-5, GIANT-SIZE DEFENDERS #5 and DEFENDERS #26-29.

 

Warning: Contains Spoilers

 

SYNOPSIS:

This hardcover is a collection of the first adventures of the original Guardians of the Galaxy, dating back to their very first appearance in Marvel Super-Heroes #18, beautifully rendered by Gene Colan in 1969. This story introduces Charlie-27, Martinex, Vance Astro, and Yondu, as they struggle against a Badoon-infested Earth in the year 3007. Banding together as the last members of their respective races, they vow that the Earth shall overcome the Badoon invaders!

In Marvel Two-in-One #4-5, Captain America, the Thing, and Sharon Carter travel to the world of Earth-691 to lend a hand in the struggle to free Earth. Joining up with the Guardians, they manage to liberate New York City from Badoon rule before returning to their own time.

In their next adventure, chronicled in Giant-Size Defenders #5, the Guardians travel to present-day Earth in search of a Badoon artifact (possibly waylaid by the Silver Surfer when he single-handedly repelled a Badoon invasion force) that could be the key to freeing their world. They team-up with the Defenders to combat Eelar, an innocent victim of Badoon treachery. And they also meet a very young version of Vance Astrovik for the first time…!

Continuing directly after the conclusion of Giant-Size Defenders #5, Defenders #26-29 sees the Defenders join the Guardians’ cause and journey to Earth-691 to free mankind from the Badoon. We also see the first appearance of Starhawk and his family, and learn the history of Earth-691 and the ways in which it is divergent from main Marvel Earth: the Martian invasion of 2001 and Killraven’s Freemen; the rise and fall of the Techno-Barons; the rebuilding of Earth and humanity’s expansion throughout the solar system and beyond; and its conquest by the Brotherhood of Badoon. We also learn of the Sisterhood of Badoon and their bizarre interaction with the Brotherhood. With a big assist from Doctor Strange and the Defenders, the Guardians free the millions of human slaves from Badoon rule and are poised to liberate the Earth once and for all.

There are two dust jackets for this hardcover – one standard (with Starhawk) and one direct-market variant (with the cover of Marvel Super-Heroes #18).

NOTES: While some of the material is dated (especially in the Guardians’ first appearance, where a lot of the dialog is prefaced by space-this and hyper-that), it’s a fun read that is reflective of the period in which it was written. Science fiction was an evolving genre in the 1970’s, and Gerber’s storylines reflected this tone and feeling (especially in the form of the Guardians’ ship, the Captain America, and the technologies contained therein – can we say poor-man’s USS Enterprise?). Colan’s and Buscema’s artwork is great as per usual, and while they are remembered for work on more popular books, for Guardians fans it doesn’t get much better. The stories reprinted in this hardcover continued directly into the Guardians’ first run at their own series in Marvel Presents (1975) #3-12 (which will be collected in the Guardians of the Galaxy: Power of Starhawk hardcover, solicited for July 1, 2009), also written by Steve Gerber. It is definitely a good year for fans of the original Guardians…!