When Al Ewing and Juann Cabal’s Guardians of the Galaxy run started, it was immediately fresh and interesting. Cabal’s work on previous titles like All-New Wolverine was good, but his collaboration with Ewing led to some of the most stylistically interesting superhero comics in a long while. Unfortunately, though, Cabal would have to leave the title. After a solid year of riveting storytelling and what is quite possibly the best Guardians of the Galaxy run of all time, the dream team split up. Ewing continued on Guardians with Juan Frigeri, a good artist who just could not match up in style to Cabal.
That’s the first problem with this third volume of Guardians. Frigeri’s not a bad artist at all, and I need to stress that. But he’s not great. There are plenty of scenes throughout the collection that are a little hard to parse and a lot of panels that are just talking heads without even an interesting background. When Frigeri gets to draw scale he’s one of the best, but in the more intimate moments (and Ewing loves to write intimate moments), he falls short. It especially doesn’t help that Brett Booth took over on cover duties, making all the covers quite ugly.
But the artwork isn’t the only thing to talk about in this volume. The first 12 issues of Ewing’s run were focused and with purpose — they served to establish this new Guardians team and dynamic after they fractured at the end of the prior run, and set up a more superhero-like status quo for the team itself. It’s the title of this volume, after all. But this third volume doesn’t really have that same sense of purpose. There’s a giant, cosmic, universe-ending threat, but it feels more like busywork than a significant threat to the universe. The story is mostly in the background as Ewing tries to lay out the more intricate details of this new Guardians team’s functions and relationships with other major cosmic entities in the Marvel universe, and when the story is supposed to have massive stakes, that doesn’t really work.
The majority of this collection is also part of a crossover in The Last Annihilation. But we only get the Guardians issues of the crossover, leaving a lot of pacing issues. Most egregiously, Guardians of the Galaxy #16 ends on what is supposed to be a significant moment of the return of Captain Glory, but #17 opens with him already having died. There’s nothing given to him in the book because that was ostensibly part of a tie-in, so instead we’re left with a bizarre page turn. There are small moments like this throughout the volume, pacing that just doesn’t feel right, and it’s a failure of the collection that it doesn’t really account for those issues.
Most bafflingly, this is the final volume of Ewing’s Guardians of the Galaxy run. I’m not going to speculate on anything that happened in the editorial office, but this volume feels like it’s supposed to be an introduction to this new team dynamic…and then the book ends. There’s no real satisfaction in the volume because it feels like a beginning, but there’s nothing to build anticipation for a future story because there’s no future story. It’s bizarre and frustrating and I don’t really understand why they couldn’t have just stopped at #12 if they weren’t planning on extending it further.
This review is a lot of complaints, which is unfortunate, because despite everything I’ve said up to this point, this is a very competent and enjoyable volume of comics. Ewing is one of Marvel’s best writers and Frigeri is honestly quite good most of the time, but a lot of the situation surrounding this volume prevents it from really being great. This final volume of Ewing’s run on Guardians of the Galaxy will go down as a lackluster conclusion to an otherwise great run, and that’s disappointing.
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