Guardians of the Galaxy, in its modern iteration, is very much a servant beholden to two masters. There are two very distinct different iterations of the concept that have bounced around in Marvel since it was relaunched following Annihilation: Conquest. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Guardians were superheroes in the classic sense, fighting to save the galaxy because no one else would. In fact, one of the underlying themes of that run was that there was no one else able to look past material concerns in order to help Adam Warlock save the universe.
Brian Michael Bendis, however, took a polar opposite approach in his relaunch of the team, during Marvel NOW. Under Bendis, the Guardians of the Galaxy were mercenaries – they fought for a paycheck. This was the approach of the movies, as well. As opposed to the more classically heroic Avengers, the Guardians of the Galaxy were basically criminals with very good publicity.
Guardians of the Galaxy #4, written by Al Ewing with art by Juann Cabal, is more or less explicitly about that dilemma. Following the death – or is it “death”? – of Peter Quill, the Guardians of the Galaxy have shattered. Hercules, Rocket, Marvel Boy, Phyla-Vell, and Moondragon form one team, while Gamora, Groot, Drax, a different Moondragon, and two new members form the other. The first team, with Rocket, is in line with the Abnett/Lanning Guardians – high-minded superheroes working to stop cosmic Armageddon, save the planet, and so forth. The second, with Gamora, are the Bendis Guardians – they’re superheroing in order to get paid.
Obviously, there’s a more straightforward plot on top of this, but the subtext is hard to ignore. The Moondragon issue touches on a related point. There is, of course, the standard comic-book exclusive issues of identity that are raised by the alternate universe doppleganger. Are you the same person? Would your relationship to your family, to your loved ones, be maintained across universes? These aren’t exactly new, of course. But the two Moondragons seem to just emphasize the dueling roles of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
The Rocket Guardians have the ‘Superhero Universe’ Moondragon, just as the Rocket Guardians themselves are the ones focused on high-cosmic politics and leftover Galactus hats. The Gamora Guardians, on the other hand, have the 616 Moondragon, who is concerned with her own personal issues of revenge, and usurpation of her own identity. Make no mistake, those are important – but those are personal issues, material issues, as contrasted to the high-concept cosmic drama of the other Guardians.
Juann Cabal’s art is a perfect fit for the issue. He possesses a fantastic gift in that he’s able to move from the absolute highest-concept comic book nonsense, to a Frank Quitely-like detail in his work on faces and expressions. In many ways, that’s a good shorthand for this book in general: a comic that is able to effortlessly leap from absolutely bonkers fake space science to deep emotionally resonant arcs.