Guardians of the Galaxy
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Pencils by Steve McNiven
Inks by John Dell
Colours by Justin Ponsor
Letters by VC’s Cory Petit
Published by Marvel
Originally part of the Point One anthology from last year, this story got away from Brian Michael Bendis in the best way, constantly expanding to the point where it justified one shot status. It’s easy to see why too, as we get a potted a history of Peter Quill, the man who will shortly become Star Lord. It’s interesting as well to see the similarities between Quill and Sam Alexander, the new Nova, as well as between their two books. Both start in space and zero in on Earth and both start with a single splash page of the Earth sitting in the void. It’s an interesting, and very effective, stylistic choice that ties the ‘space’ books together and I hope it continues through any others Marvel have on deck.
Bendis has been criticised, a lot, for decompressed storytelling and he’s certainly been guilty of its worst excesses at times. However, if anything this goes in the other direction as we start thirty years previously with the crash-landing of J’Son of Spartax outside Meredith Quill’s house. Bendis has a good ear for dialogue and there’s some wonderfully sparky exchanges between the passive, regal alien and the grounded, pragmatic, human. He sweeps us along through their romance in two pages and then, cleverly, extends J’Son’s return to the stars across three. It’s a dreadful moment for both Peter’s parents and by spreading it out like this he mirrors the time dilation that always seems to go hand in hand with goodbyes. Elegantly handled, and with real emotional bite, it’s a high point of the issue.
Peter himself turns up around the halfway mark, aged ten and Bendis, like Loeb in Nova, isn’t afraid to have his main character be flawed at best and unlikeable at worst. Peter’s furious, with his father and with his life and his anger gets channelled into flights of fancy (In another nice touch, Meredith, a woman who has literally held the impossible, dislikes comic books because they represent what Peter wants and what she had) and misunderstood grade school heroism. He’s every kid who’s ever wanted more, the only difference being he steps up when most people don’t bother. That’s heroic, at it’s most basic level, and also, it turns out, tragic.
Things move fast in this book and the panel at the top of one page of Peter slumping home to the farm, storm clouds gathering above, is both a beautiful piece of art and very portentous. Peter is about to get everything he ever wanted and all it’s going to cost is everything he ever had. The moment, when it comes, is utterly brutal and the chase through Peter’s house, his would-be assassins’ weapons literally carving it apart, is visceral and shocking. Peter Quill is a hero that doesn’t get to choose the easy way and this experience doesn’t just sculpt his future life it breaks him apart first. An angry young man just like all the others. The only difference being this one has an immensely powerful extra-terrestrial sidearm and a team of renegades backing him up.
The antepenultimate page is Peter, as an adult, explaining his life and the mission statement of the book in a single, focused angry speech. It’s great writing, focused and angry and calm all at once. The final two pages give you a first look at the team and it’s new, very surprising member. Anyone who’s seen solicitations for Marvel titles for this month will know who it is but nonetheless it shows not only Marvel’s commitment to these characters but a different, welcome approach to them. The dynamics of the book, as well as the ideas, look set to be fascinating reading.
This is an excellent script and the art is absolutely the match of it, Steve McNiven’s style changing completely from his work on Civil War and, as he always seems to do, improving on already impressive work. The characters are proportioned, fluid and expressive, the violence is shocking and brutal and every emotion is clearly displayed. His work meshes with Bendis’ script to create solid emotional character beats and his design work looks to be a combination of grounded and fantastic. Likewise, John Dell’s inks and Justin Ponsor’s colours lift and enhance detail and often have a rich, sunlight tone on several pages that makes the Earth scenes all the more natural. Finally, Petit’s lettering conveys more than one language, and the pacing and rhythm of the dialogue superbly well.
This is a fantastic debut to what looks like an excellent series. It’s assured, calm, confident science fiction that has a clear mission statement and a rock solid emotional foundation. Bring on issue 1.