Review: Guardians of the Galaxy #1 (Bendis & McNiven)


McNiven’s art and Ponsor’s colors are nothing short of magnificent. You’d be hard-pressed to find better “photo-realistic” style art and eye-pleasing coloring in any comic book on the shelves today. That being said, if I had to criticize anything – it would be that Star-Lord has been rendered a bit too much the “twenty-something pretty boy” rather than the older, more seasoned and hardened look of times past.  I actually prefer the older, seasoned, hardened look and feel to the character.  I know this entire series is essentially a prequel to the 2014 movie – so the characters are being rendered to look somewhat like their movie counterparts, but it’s hard for me to take this version of Star-Lord as seriously as previous versions as he looks like he should be modeling for GQ rather than leading a guerilla task force protecting Earth from incursions from the great empires controlling the local group of galaxies.

Let me pause to take some Pepto-Bismol before I talk about Bendis’ writing, story direction, and characterization.
There – that’s better.  Thanks.
First off: What the hell is Iron Man doing in this book?  I mean, I get it that he’s the “gateway” character to lure Avengers fans into actually breaking out of their rut and trying Bendis’ “Cosmic Avengers” – but his shoehorning into the book and storyline feels completely un-natural and un-necessary.  He might as well be wearing a tee-shirt with “Gateway Character” written on it. I can tolerate and enjoy Robert Downey Jr.’s interpretation of the character in the movies, but I haven’t cared for the comic book version of Tony Stark since Civil War.  I’d go as far as to say that Stark’s behavior during Civil War disqualifies him for any leadership position – much less a high-stakes one such as defending Earth from incursions.  Plus, the “duck out of water” angle doesn’t really apply to Stark as he’s had many space adventures over his career. Finally, he just doesn’t mesh well with the Guardians.  I’m sure in upcoming issues we’ll be treated to predictable clichés such as him putting the moves on Gamora. Maybe we’ll get lucky and she’ll kill him.
Next, what is it with the daddy issues? Why does every cosmic character have to be driven by daddy issues? Lack of creativity or originality perhaps? Besides – the daddy issues aren’t even consistent with Star-Lord continuity. Jason and Peter settled their differences back in the 1970’s storylines and even went adventuring together. How is it that Peter has been regressed in age/mentality by at least 10 years Marvel time and is back to having daddy issues? Seriously, I much prefer the grizzled smart-ass tactical genius from Annihilation and GotG Volume II to Bendis’ watering down of the character in the name of mass market appeal.
Also, the gateway character himself – Stark – points out that there’s numerous Avengers teams defending Earth. I’d add that there’s S.W.O.R.D., SHIELD, X-Men, and numerous other heroes, teams, and organizations available to defend Earth. Why exactly are the Guardians needing to park in low Earth orbit? Isn’t S.W.O.R.D already there? Isn’t Earth well-protected enough? Wouldn’t the Guardians be better placed back on Knowhere with access to the entire universe instantly at their fingertips? Shouldn’t the title be changed to “Guardians of the Earth?” This Earth-centric focus is once again nauseatingly aimed at mass market appeal arising from Marvel Editorial’s long-held belief that cosmic hasn’t historically sold in high numbers because there’s no market for stories set in space far away from Earth.  Yeah – I remember back in the 70’s when some said the same thing about Star Wars.  Funny that the GotG movie is already being compared to Star Wars.
In terms of characterization, I’m wondering why in the world Peter is suddenly so concerned with Earth to the exclusion of the rest of the local group of galaxies. The same question could be asked of Drax, Rocket, Groot, and Gamora. What’s their stake in this? Is it just loyalty to Peter? If so, that’s sure a major change in characterization from Volume II.  Also – where’s the rest of the team from Knowhere? Intuitively – it seems they’d be better choices to round out the team than Stark.
In the final analysis – my whole problem with Volume III is that at best it’s “GotG Light.” That is – it has some of the same characters only softened, re-characterized as less mature, and apparently motivated for vastly different reasons than those presented in Volume II. Whereas Volume II was soaring space-based para-military science-fiction, Volume III is mediocre Earth-centric clichéd super-hero-ish fantasy. Volume III’s Bendis-ification makes it pale in comparison to Volume II. With Gaiman taking over in a few issues – maybe it can be salvaged.  Let’s hope so.