For a long stretch, Brian Michael Bendis wrote Guardians of the Galaxy with one of the most eclectic and familiar teams ever. The Thing, Kitty Pryde, Venom, and Angela populated the team along with the usual suspects of Gamora, Groot, Rocket and Star-Lord. The series invented space Venom, introduced Angela to the Marvel universe and was generally a fun space adventure. This volume collects the end of all that.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
When things get rough on Earth, Captain Marvel calls in friends from out of town! Iron Man doesn’t stand a chance against the Guardians, right? But the team’s allegiances are split down the middle, and tensions have never been higher! And while they’re busy on Earth, who’s guarding the galaxy? As internal conflicts reach a boiling point, outsiders throw more fuel on the fire -and one member with deep roots on Earth will struggle to hold onto their galactic connections! Plus: Flashback to Flash Thompson’s earliest days on the team! Would Venom endanger his new allies to save his idol, Spider-Man? Find out why Spidey is one of the reasons Rocket hates Earth!
Why does this matter?
This collection covers Guardians of the Galaxy #11 to #14 as well as the Free Comic Book Day comic from 2016. The story basically sets up the Guardians’ inclusion in Civil War II and the eventual grounding on Earth that followed. Brian Michael Bendis writes this so you know what you’re getting into with the dialogue and the art by Valerio Schiti and Kevin Maguire continue a cartoony but detailed style.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Aww, he’s in love!
This is one of those collections where you’ll want the previous collection and collection that comes after to gain some context. It’s a transitional period for the characters as they head to Earth to help Carol Danvers out with her little Civil War against Tony Stark. Bendis thoroughly outlines the dynamics of all the characters via fun bits of dialogue and conflict so you won’t be lost, but it’s certainly not a collection with big events or actions. One of the issues takes place during the big brawl of Civil War II but it ends up being mostly dialogue prior to fighting and then focuses on the fallout. That said, Bendis and Schiti do show the battle in a different way with a double-page splash starting the battle and then full page splashes cutting ahead in time like snapshots. It’s a clever bit of storytelling and a reminder of how Bendis is always pushing comics to be a little different.
If you’re entertained by character work you’ve come to the right place. There are excellent character interchanges, especially between Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde — she not only adds layers to the characters personally but can be fun to read too. There are also nice bits of humor mostly from Rocket and Drax.
There’s also some meaningful content in the collection. In a scene narrated by Rocket, Bendis and Schiti close in on Earth as he discusses how stupid humans are to not keep their planet clean. Very salient points are made — including how stupid our political system is — and it’s certainly a topic Rocket would latch onto to make it clear humans are very dumb organisms. And he’s not wrong! This weaves into an argument about whose side they should be on and fighting for what you think is right that gives their joining the Civil War some purpose.
Closing out the book is a hefty sketch section showcasing cover breakdowns from Arthur Adams and a hell of a lot of pages focused on Valerio Schiti’s art process, from sketch to pre-colored page. These 16 pages are a cool aspect you don’t see in most collections and will give you a new respect for Schiti’s work.
Excellent captions in this section of the book. Hear, hear!
It can’t be perfect can it?
I wasn’t a fan of the 14th issue in this run which is the last issue in this collection. I detailed why in my original review, but the basic problem I had was the entire thing was a filler like story that used Spider-Man in your customary memory wipe ending so it doesn’t even matter. This issue doesn’t help the overall collection much in part because the story feels so transitional and unfinished. You’re not getting the whole story and the plotting is a tad clunky as it navigates around the Civil War II event. The content is good, but the overall experience isn’t smooth and the adventure doesn’t have a beginning, middle or end.
It’s worth noting the back matter, while appreciated, does seem like filler to pad the book out for mass release.
Is It Good?
This was a fun time for the Guardians of the Galaxy and it’s partly due to the fantastic character work and interesting team lineup. Unfortunately, this collection is clunky in part because it doesn’t have a focused main story to tell and instead serves as a tie-in book for Civil War II. If you do choose to dive in though, you’re bound to find something to enjoy. This collection has a few strokes of genius and longtime comic fans will appreciate these clever bits of storytelling most of all.
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