“Change is… It’s what we get.”
Gods do not die easily, even in the Marvel universe. If they do go down, they’re likely to get right back on up and keep on trucking. But, like Stephen King wrote, “sometimes… dead is better.” For the Greek gods, permanent death would have been better. They died. And were reborn.
But unlike say, the Eternals, the Olympians did not come back as more or less who they were the last time around. No, they were reborn as murderous space pirates, butchers whose intergalactic raiding pulls double duty as a blood sacrifice to their malefic might.
Against them stand Marvel’s resident intergalactic hero crew/traumatized family of choice, the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Guardians have been through their fair share of superhero comics life/death loop, and their fair share of dramatic personal transformations, and that has not stopped. Baggage and unsettled, unsettling business abound.
But where the Olympians emerged from resurrection more warped than Jim Jaspers, the Guardians for all their toils remain the Guardians. To paraphrase Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, they aren’t who they were, but they’re still themselves.
The Olympians are coming. There’s a fight that needs fighting. So the Guardians of the Galaxy, shaken and changed though they are, will do what needs doing. They will stand. And fight.
Approaching the Red Line… Or Perhaps the Red Circle:
Guardians of the Galaxy #11, drawn by Juann Cabal, written by Al Ewing, colored by Frederico Blee, and lettered by Cory Petit is a deep breath before the plunge. The Guardians and the Olympians are going to clash. The Guardians have prepared as best they can, but they’re still facing long, long odds and the dreadful wait before the battle is joined.
Cabal, Ewing, Blee, and Petit take the opportunity to dive into the team, to check up on everyone, to take stock of who’s where and why. Nova recounts his long-running history of galactic trauma all the way back to Annihilation, (one of the keystone stories of contemporary cosmic Marvel) to his therapist. Star-Lord, calmly reeling from a return to base reality after living an entire other life in another dimension, makes peace with Nova and faces the extent to which his early-series sort-of-death stopping the Olympians hurt his beloved Gamora.
The psychic heroine Moondragon, now a hybrid of her anti-heroic mainline self and an alternate universe where she was one of reality’s great champions, grapples with how much that merge hurt the champion Moondragon’s wife Phyla-Vell.
And all the while, the Olympians approach, craving vengeance for the unforgivable delay of their intergalactic conquest.
Cabal draws haunted people really, really well. Nova, Star-Lord and Moondragon receive the majority of the issue’s focus, and each has their share of weight to carry.
Nova, who’s fought war after war after war, is deeply weary. He carries himself stiffly. Star-Lord, who’s trying to figure out what a long-buried part of his history means to him, is more sanguine but cannot shake his feelings of loss. His lankiness comes as much from sorrow as it does his newfound awareness. Moondragon, who is both still herself and not the person Phyla fell in love with, is trying to reach out to her wife and running smack into a shared history that is no longer quite hers. She carries herself with confidence, but confidence that goes hand in hand with heartbreak.
Cabal places the Guardians on an isolated, desolate plain — a place where they are the most colorful and significant things on the page. It draws the eye to them and makes their body language particularly striking. He’s aided by Blee’s strong color work, which renders the Guardians superheroic but minuscule compared to the sheer scale of everything they have faced in the past and present.
Ewing’s script skillfully balances the intimate and the grand. He bookends the issue with moments of dire cosmic peril, opening on Nova’s flashback to Annihilation and closing with the arrival of the Olympians. It’s strong storytelling, setting the stakes before zooming in on the people who are stepping up to face all these myriad galactic dooms.
The issue’s dialogue is conversational. It flows smoothly and feels genuine, even as it directly accounts for the stupendous and fantastic. That tracks. For the Guardians, the stupendous and fantastic are simultaneously just that and a regular part of their jobs. It doesn’t make facing down a murderous, bloodthirsty Zeus and his similarly murderous family any less terrifying or necessary, but it does make it a bit more comprehensible.
Someone needs to stand, and the Guardians are those someones. So they stand. It’s good stuff, warm-hearted and thoughtful about the roads it’s walking, with skillful stage setting for the next issue’s promised rumble. Given that the issue is a beat between beats, I cannot recommend it as the best place to start Guardians of the Galaxy, but darn if it isn’t a well-crafted comic that will make the next issue shine a bit brighter.
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