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'Guardians of the Galaxy by Donny Cates' TPB review
Marvel

Comic Books

‘Guardians of the Galaxy by Donny Cates’ TPB review

Two cosmic story arcs featuring Thanos and so many more.

Donny Cates took over the Guardians of the Galaxy back in January 2019 when he was one of the hottest writers in comics. Coming off an epic Venom run that recontextualized the character, what he could do with the Guardians of the Galaxy seemed limitless, especially with artist Geoff Shaw drawing the first story arc. With their creation, the Cosmic Ghost Rider, along for the ride, the sky was the limit, and they collected for the first time in the entire sky-high Cates run. Did it live up to the hype?

Collected here are Guardians of the Galaxy (2019) #1-12 and Guardians of the Galaxy Annual (2019) #1. Aside from the annual, this trade paperback houses two big story arcs, with Star-Lord taking the central focus in both with a strong and varied ensemble cast to back him up. First up is a story arc involving the death and possible return of Thanos, and in the second Star-Lord’s father rises up to ruin the galaxy. In both cases, Star-Lord and his motley crew must do whatever it takes to beat the odds.

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Two things permeate this trade paperback. The first is a punk-rock attitude, and the second is a fun mix-up of the traditional Guardians of the Galaxy team. When it comes to the punk aspect, you can see how a few characters are depicted, from Groot’s mohawk to the dirty hair-in-the-face look of Gamora. There are big and badass moments throughout, like Rocket planted inside Groot’s chest like a mech suit or Gamora planting magnet bombs on Beta Ray Bill’s hammer, so it blows up when it returns to him. There are cool ideas like this throughout, keeping your action itch scratched.

The team dynamic is completely new here, like Cosmic Ghost Rider on time for a spell or Beta Ray Bill joining them. Rocket, meanwhile, isn’t in most of this book but does show up in the later issues. This series came at a time when Star-Lord and Gamora were very much not friends, and Cates attempted to bring them back together. You can tell Cates has an affinity for Cosmic Ghost Rider as he has some of the funniest, most badass lines.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1

The layout on the opening page is quite nice.
Credit: Marvel Comics

The first story arc comes out swinging with a big idea surrounding the death of Thanos. It’s introduced very early on that Thanos copied his mind into a body, but he won’t say who. This sets off every hero to find and possibly kill whoever he inserted his mind into. It’s a wild goose chase, though, and this story arc ends rather abruptly. The second story arc puts Star-Lord on a quest to question his own father or fall in line. Various subplots sometimes feel awkward between transitions in both stories, but nothing so awkward to throw off the pace or flow of the bigger story.

The art throughout is as good as superhero comics can get, although there are some awkward hiccups thrown in. Shaw’s ability to capture dramatic moments is exceptional, especially with excellent colors by Marte Gracia that bring out the shadow work. Eros, for instance, is horribly scarred, and his face brings a level of horror that suits the big twist. Cory Smith draws the last six issues with incredible double-page splashes and plenty of detail.

It’s interesting reading this years later, in part because you can see Cates weaving in his own creations like Cosmic Ghost Rider or Wraith, who ended up falling out of the main narratives or disappearing completely. We also have Groot talking, which was spinning out of Gerry Duggan’s run on the series. This collection can feel all over the place for these reasons while building on its two-story arcs while never feeling like it was setting up a bigger future. In that respect, this collection is like two stories told well but lacking a bigger direction.

Guardians of the Galaxy by Donny Cates comes at a good time as we approach the first issue of the next big story for the team. If Cates’ run were to be boiled down to one word, it’d be epic. No matter which issue you read in this collection, there’s always a big idea, cool action moment, or wow-factor scene. It doesn’t all flow or meld together perfectly, but it’s exciting comics when it needs to be.

'Guardians of the Galaxy by Donny Cates' TPB review
‘Guardians of the Galaxy by Donny Cates’ TPB review
Guardians Of The Galaxy By Donny Cates
Guardians of the Galaxy by Donny Cates comes at a good time as we approach the first issue of the next big story for the team. If Cates' run were to be boiled down to one word, it'd be epic. No matter which issue you read in this collection, there's always a big idea, cool action moment, or wow-factor scene. It doesn't all flow or meld together perfectly, but it's exciting comics when it needs to be.
Reader Rating2 Votes
8.9
Opens with an epic mystery featuring Thanos
Eclectic mix of new characters on the team
Has a punk rock vibe
Never feels like it's building towards something bigger
There's a lot going on so new readers can feel lost or confused, like Wraith popping up or Groot talking
8
Good
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